Articles By Mitch Light
There were no changes in the power rankings, but it was still a huge weekend for the SEC. Thanks to losses by both Kansas State and Oregon, the winner of the SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia will be in position to play for the national championship. Also of note, Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Nashville for the first time in 30 years.
Post-Week 12 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel is now at the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race. The redshirt freshman quarterback leads the SEC in rushing (101.3 ypg) and ranks second in the nation in total offense (378.3 ypg).
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron barely broke a sweat in the Crimson Tide’s 49–0 win over Western Carolina. The junior quarterback completed 6-of-6 for 133 yards and one touchdown. He now ranks third nationally in passing efficiency.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — Murray had a productive day throwing the football in the Bulldogs’ 45–14 win over Georgia Southern. He threw for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The junior ranks first in the nation in passing efficiency and has 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three games.
Post-Week 12 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney did not play in South Carolina’s win over Wofford due to a foot injury. For the season, the sophomore defensive end has 42 total tackles (17 for a loss) with 9.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones had six tackles, including one for a loss, in the Bulldogs’ win over Georgia Southern. The junior linebacker now has 18 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks for the season.
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end recorded four tackles in the Aggies’ win over Sam Houston State. He continues to lead the SEC in tackles for a loss with 20.0 and sacks with 12.5.
Post-Week 12 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — It helps to have one of the most electric players in college football running the show, but Sumlin deserves a ton of credit for the Aggies’ 5–2 SEC record. They have two close losses at home to top-10 teams (Florida and LSU) and two weeks ago they knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
2. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — The Commodores rolled past Tennessee with surprising ease on Saturday night to improve to 7–4 in Franklin’s second season on the job. Vanderbilt tied a school record with five SEC wins in Franklin’s second season.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators aren’t exactly playing their best ball of late, but Muschamp has this program back among the nation’s elite. Last year, in his first on the job, Florida went 3–5 in the SEC. This year, the Gators went 7–1
Post-Week 12 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (10–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 12 result: Beat Western Carolina 49–0
Alabama disposed of FCS lightweight Western Carolina with little difficulty on Saturday afternoon. The big news, however, came late Saturday night, when both Kansas State (BCS No. 1) and Oregon (BCS No. 2) were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten. Alabama climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings and will play for the national title with wins over Auburn next week and Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
Next week: Auburn
2. Georgia (10–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 12 result: Beat Georgia Southern 45–14
It was a struggle for a while, but Georgia pulled away in the second half en route to a 45–14 win over Georgia Southern. The Bulldogs had some trouble at times with Georgia Southern’s option attack, but only allowed one touchdown through the first three quarters and 318 total yards for the game. Aaron Murray was the offensive star for Georgia, throwing for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. With both Oregon and Kansas State losing, Georgia now controls its own destiny to play for the national title.
Next week: Georgia Tech
3. Florida (10–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 12 result: Beat Jacksonville State 23–0
Nothing comes easy for the Gators these days. Florida improved to 10–1 overall with a 23–0 win over Jacksonville State despite scoring only one offensive touchdown and recording only 356 yards of offense. Jacoby Brissett, playing for the injured Jeff Driskell, completed 14-of-22 passes for 154 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Senior tailback Mike Gillieslee rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries, his first 100-yard game since early October.
Next week: at Florida State
4. LSU (9–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 12 result: Beat Ole Miss 41–35
LSU kept its slim SEC West title hopes alive with a wild 41–35 win over Ole Miss in Baton Rouge. The Tigers gave up 463 total yards, including 310 through the air, but made key plays at the right time. Late in the fourth quarter, Anthony Johnson and Lavar Edwards sacked Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on consecutive plays to knock the Rebels from the 18 to the 36-yard line. Then, after Ole Miss missed a 53-yard field goal attempts, LSU drove 64 yards on nine plays for the game-winning touchdown. To win the SEC West and play in the SEC title game, LSU needs to beat Arkansas, Missouri needs to beat Texas A&M and Auburn needs to beat Alabama.
Next week: at Arkansas
5. Texas A&M (9–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 12 result: Beat Sam Houston State 47–28
Texas A&M won for the ninth time in the past 10 games, cruising to a 47–28 win over FCS power Sam Houston State. Quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 267 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 100 yards and two scores to lead the Aggie attack. With Collin Klein struggling in Kansas State’s loss to Baylor, Manziel has emerged as the frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race.
Next week: Missouri
6. South Carolina (9–2, 6–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 12 result: Beat Wofford 24–7
South Carolina was outgained 330-to-293 but managed to escape Williams-Brice Stadium with a tougher-than-expected 24–7 win over Wofford. Connor Shaw completed 16-of-20 passes for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and Kenny Miles rushed for 127 yards and a score to lead the Carolina offense. The Gamecocks completed their first unbeaten (7–0) at home since 1987.
Next week: at Clemson
7. Mississippi State (8–3, 4–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 12 result: Beat Arkansas 45–14
Mississippi State snapped a three-game losing streak with a emphatic 45–14 win over Arkansas in Starkville. The Bulldogs fell behind 14–7 early in the second quarter but scored the game’s final 31 points to secure no worse than a .500 record in the SEC. Tyler Russell was sharp for MSU, completing 19-of-32 passes for 274 yards with four touchdowns an no interceptions. Tailback LaDarius Perkins, who missed the LSU game with an injury, returned to the lineup and rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries. The Bulldogs recorded a season-high 505 yards of total offense.
Next week: at Ole Miss
8. Vanderbilt (7–4, 5–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 12 result: Beat Tennessee 41–18
Vanderbilt beat Tennessee in Nashville for the first time since 1982 — and did so in dominating fashion. The Commodores broke open a tight game with 28 straight points in the second half to claim their fifth straight win. The Vanderbilt defense held the powerful Volunteer offense to 303 total yards (second fewest of the season) and allowed UT to convert only 2-of-15 on third down. Jordan Rodgers outdueled UT’s Tyler Bray, throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-point win was the largest margin of victory for Vanderbilt over Tennessee since 1954. The Commodores, with five SEC wins, have secured their first winning league record since 1982.
Next week: at Wake Forest
9. Ole Miss (5–6, 2¬–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 12 result: Lost to LSU 41–35
It’s been a tough two weeks for the Ole Miss Rebels. One week after blowing a 23–6 second half lead at home to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss battled LSU to the wire in Baton Rouge before falling 41–35. The Rebels outgained LSU 463-to-427 but committed four turnovers and had trouble protecting quarterback Bo Wallace on a decisive fourth quarter drive. Wallace threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns on only 15 completions but was responsible for three of the Rebels’ turnovers. He also rushed for two touchdowns, including a 58-yard run up the middle in the first quarter. Ole Miss must beat rival Mississippi State in Oxford next week to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: Mississippi State
10. Arkansas (4–7, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 12 result: Lost to Mississippi State 45–14
It’s official: Arkansas, a top-15 team in the preseason, will not play in a bowl game. The Razorbacks dropped to 4–7 overall and 2–5 in the SEC with a 45–17 loss at Mississippi State. Arkansas was done in once again by a pass defense that has been among the worst in the nation in 2012. MSU threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the seventh team to top the 275-yard mark against the Hogs. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 23-of-29 passes for 225 yard and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice. Wilson has thrown seven picks in the last four games; he threw only six all of last season.
Next week: LSU
11. Missouri (5–6, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Syracuse 31–27
Missouri lost for the fourth time at home this season, falling to Syracuse 31–27 on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining. Missouri held leads of 14–3, 17–10, 24–17 and 27–24 but had trouble stopping the Syracuse passing attack all night long. SU quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns and wide out Alec Lemon caught 12 passes for 244 yards. Missouri quarterback James Franklin completed 17-of-23 for 278 yards and two scores but had to be replaced in the fourth quarter for an undisclosed injury. The Tigers must beat Texas A&M in College Station to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: at Texas A&M
12. Tennessee (4–7, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 41–18
The Derek Dooley era is over. It became official on Sunday morning, about 12 hours after the Vols suffered their worst defeat to Vanderbilt since 1954. The final score was 41–18 — and it could have been worse. The Volunteers were completely dominated in the second half on their way to their eighth straight SEC road loss. The Tennessee offense, which had scored 103 points in the previous two games, was held to one touchdown (the Vols added a scored on special teams). Tyler Bray had his worst outing of the season, completing only 11-of-29 for 103 yards with one touchdown and two picks. Bray was pulled in the second quarter but returned to the lineup in the second half. Tennessee ends its season next week vs. Kentucky. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will serve as the interim head coach.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (3–8, 0–7 SEC)
Last week: 13
Week 12 result: Beat Alabama A&M 51–7
This one was never in doubt. Auburn jumped on Alabama A&M early, taking a 21–0 lead after one quarter and a 35–0 at the half. The Tigers rolled up 502 yards offense, led by tailbacks Tre Mason (181 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (104 yards). True freshman Jonathan Wallace continues to play well at quarterback; he completed 10-of-18 for 171 yards and one touchdown. Auburn now makes the trip across the state to battle rival Alabama, which is back in the national title picture.
Next week: at Alabama
14. Kentucky (2–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 12 result: Beat Samford 34–3
Joker Phillips won in his final game at Commonwealth Stadium as the Wildcats snapped an eight-game winning streak with a convincing win over Samford. The Cats outgained Samford 455-to-102 by dominating on the line of scrimmage. UK ran for a season-high 342 yards, with Raymond Sanders (123 yards), Dyshawn Mobley (82) and Jonathan George (76) doing most of the damage. Jalen Whitlow received most of the snaps at quarterback and completed 10-of-13 for 66 yards and one touchdown.
Next week: at Tennessee
College football's Week 12 schedule is highlighted by two huge battles in the Pac-12. Stanford visits Oregon in a game that likely will decide the South Division champion, while USC makes the short trip to UCLA for the game of the year in the South.
No. 109 FIU at No. 17 FAU
FAU is showing signs of life late in Carl Pelini’s first season as the head coach. The Owls have won two of three, highlighted by a 37–28 win at Western Kentucky last weekend. The offense, which scored 20 points or fewer in each of the first six games, has scored 34 or more in three of the past four.
No. 121 Hawaii at No. 95 Air Force
Five years ago, Hawaii played in a BCS bowl. Two years ago, the Warriors won 10 games. Now, under first-year coach Norm Chow, this is one of the worst teams in the nation.
Air Force 38–3
No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon
It’s a testament to Oregon’s dominance that the Ducks are favored by nearly three touchdowns against the second-best team in the Pac-12 North — and maybe the second-best team in the entire league.
No. 2 Kansas State at No. 42 Baylor
Kansas State has given up 16 touchdowns in seven Big 12 games. Baylor has given up 38 in six games. Go with the team that allows fewer touchdowns.
Kansas State 44–28
No. 84 Wake Forest at No. 3 Notre Dame
Wake Forest was held to 185 total yards in a 37–6 loss at NC State last week. That same NC State team gave up 446 yards to Virginia the previous week. The Notre Dame defense should dominate.
Notre Dame 24–6
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 25 Wisconsin
Ohio State has a two-game lead on Wisconsin in the Leaders Division but is not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. The Badgers will go in their stead after clinching a spot with an emphatic 62–14 win at Indiana on Saturday.
Ohio State 24–20
Western Carolina at No. 5 Alabama
The biggest mismatch of the weekend has to be Western Carolina vs. Alabama. The Catamounts are 1–9 and are allowing 519.8 yards and 40.0 points per game. It’s a safe bet that Alabama will bounce back from its only loss of the season with a comfortable win.
Georgia Southern at No. 6 Georgia
Georgia true freshman Todd Gurley is closing in on 1,000 yards. He has 973 yards while sharing time with fellow rookie Keith Marshall, and is only 41 yards behind SEC leader Johnny Manziel.
Jacksonville State at No. 7 Florida
Jacksonville State is the last school from the FCS ranks to beat an SEC school. The Gamecocks defeated Ole Miss in Oxford 49–48 on the opening week of the 2010 season.
No. 38 Ole Miss at No. 8 LSU
Ole Miss has played well in recent trips to Baton Rouge: The Rebels are 4–4 in their last eight at Tiger Stadium with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points.
Sam Houston State at No. 9 Texas A&M
This should be a fun game. Sam Houston State leads the FCS in scoring offense (46.2 ppg) and ranks sixth in total offense (490.3 ypg).
Texas A&M 48–20
Wofford at No. 10 South Carolina
South Carolina takes on a solid Wofford team that is 8–2 overall and 6–2 in the SoCon. The schools have met twice in the past seven years, with Carolina winning 27–20 in 2006 and 23–13 in ’08.
South Carolina 31–13
No. 11 Florida State at No. 83 Maryland
Maryland’s season has been derailed by injuries, most notably at the quarterback position. The Terps have averaged 14.5 points during their four-game losing streak.
Florida State 41–0
No. 56 NC State at No. 12 Clemson
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Clemson has been on quite a roll. Since losing at Florida State in late September, the Tigers have won six straight by an average margin of 25.2 points.
No. 13 Oklahoma at No. 35 West Virginia
This was expected to be one of the marquee games in the Big 12 this season. But that was before we knew just how bad West Virginia would be at preventing their opponents from gaining yards and scoring points. In league play, the Mountaineers are giving up an average of 517.8 yards and 51.0 points per game.
No. 80 California at No. 15 Oregon State
Cal’s season will come to an end this Saturday in Corvallis. The question is: Will this also be the end of the Jeff Tedford era?
Oregon State 31–17
No. 21 USC at No. 16 UCLA
USC has been arguably the most disappointing team in the nation in 2012. UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises. The result: UCLA is one-half game up on its cross-town rival in the Pac-12 South and controls its own destiny to play in the league title game.
No. 65 Minnesota at No. 17 Nebraska
Here’s an odd stat about Minnesota. The Gophers have scored either 13 points or 17 points in six of their last seven games. The exception was in a 44–28 win over Purdue three weeks ago.
No. 74 Iowa at No. 19 Michigan
Iowa is trying to avoid its first five-game losing streak since 2000, when Kirk Ferentz’s second Hawkeye team opened the season 0–5 en route to a 3–9 season.
No. 48 Utah State at No. 20 Louisiana Tech
It’s the game of the year in the WAC. Louisiana Tech has received more national pub, but Utah State is having an outstanding season as well. The Aggies are 8–2, with a two-point loss to Wisconsin and a three-point loss to BYU.
Utah State 31–27
No. 22 Texas Tech at No. 27 Oklahoma State
These two teams have something in common: They both struggled to beat Kansas. The Cowboys topped KU 20–14 in Lawrence in mid-October. Last week, Texas Tech needed double-overtime to beat Kansas 41–34 in Lubbock.
Oklahoma State 34–30
No. 23 Arizona at No. 63 Utah
This is a huge game for a Utah program that needs two wins to become bowl-eligible for a 10th-straight season. The Utes are 4–1 at home with the only loss coming by 10 points to USC. Arizona, however, has too much firepower.
No. 26 Rutgers at No. 37 Cincinnati
Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has to be a bit concerned about his team’s performance of late. The Knights lost at home to Kent State two weeks ago and then struggled with Army this past weekend. Rutgers was outgained 337-to-252 and didn’t hold its first lead until midway through the fourth quarter.
No. 46 Arkansas at No. 28 Mississippi State
There’s one stat that best illustrates Arkansas’ struggles in 2012. And it’s quite simple: The Razorbacks aren’t scoring enough touchdowns. Last year, with Bobby Petrino calling the plays, Arkansas scored 32 touchdowns in eight SEC games. This year, the Hogs have scored 16 touchdowns in six league games.
Mississippi State 31–24
No. 29 Washington at No. 100 Colorado
Colorado’s defense has been unbelievably bad over the past five games. The Buffs have given up 51, 50, 70, 48 and 56 points in consecutive weeks.
No. 71 Indiana at No. 31 Penn State
Indiana must bounce back from a sobering 62–14 loss at home to Wisconsin. The Hoosiers can still become bowl-eligible but must beat Penn State and Purdue on the road. That’s not likely to happen.
Penn State 37–27
No. 32 Northwestern at No. 33 Michigan State
Northwestern is 7–3 overall and has had double-digit leads in the second half of all three losses — at Penn State, vs. Nebraska and at Michigan. This team could easily be in the thick of the Legends Division race.
No. 52 Tennessee at No. 34 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt, 4–3 in the SEC, has won more than two league games for only the third time since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1992. With a win on Saturday, the Commodores will have a winning SEC record for the first time since 1982.
No. 36 Iowa State at No. 87 Kansas
Kansas has yet to beat an FBS team in 2012, but the Jayhawks have been relatively competitive — at least for a bad team. They lost by 14 to TCU, by seven at Northern Illinois, by six to Oklahoma State, by four to Texas and by seven in double-overtime at Texas Tech.
No. 101 Washington State at 39 Arizona State
Arizona State was once 3–0 in the Pac-12. Now, the Sun Devils are 3–4. The problem? Defense. ASU gave up 17 points or fewer in its first three league games but has allowed 36 or more in each of its four losses.
Arizona State 34–17
No. 41 Syracuse at No. 51 Missouri
Missouri won its first SEC road game last week — 51–48 in four overtimes at Tennessee — despite giving up 432 passing yards. That has to be a concern for Gary Pinkel and his staff. Syracuse has been on a roll offensively.
No. 112 Colorado State at No. 43 Boise State
Boise State can secure no worse than a tie for the Mountain West title in its last season in the league by beating Colorado State this week and struggling Nevada in Reno the following week. For the Broncos to win the title outright, San Diego State will have to lose at Wyoming next week.
Boise State 38–10
No. 55 Duke at No. 60 Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 380 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 208 yards and one score (on only seven completions) in a 68–50 win at North Carolina on Saturday. This is not a good matchup for a Duke team that ranks 85th in the nation in rushing defense and has given up an average of 43.8 points in its last four games.
Georgia Tech 44–30
No. 77 South Florida at No. 45 Miami (Fla.)
South Florida snapped a six-game losing streak by beating UConn 13–6 last week at home. The Bulls need to win their final three games to become bowl eligible. Not going to happen.
No. 59 UCF at 47 Tulsa
These two teams likely will meet again in the Conference USA title game in a few weeks, with the winner serving as the host. Neither team has lost to a non-AQ conference opponent in 2012.
No. 50 Kent State at No. 76 Bowling Green
It’s a huge game in the MAC East between 6–0 Kent State and 5–1 Bowling Green. Kent will clinch a spot in the league title game with a win; Bowling Green would still need to beat Buffalo next week to secure a trip to Detroit.
Kent State 34–24
No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 93 Boston College
This figures to be the final home game for Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani, who has been on the Eagles’ staff since 1997. BC is 2¬–8 overall and 1–5 in the ACC.
Virginia Tech 23–13
No. 57 BYU at No. 64 San Jose State
San Jose State is 8–2 overall and ranks second or third in the WAC in every key offensive and defensive statistic. It’s a bit of a surprise that the Spartans are a 3-point underdog at home.
San Jose State 28–21
No. 66 Arkansas State at No. 82 Troy
Things are clicking for Gus Malzahn’s offense in the latter half of the season. The Red Wolves have won five straight and are averaging 40.4 points during that span.
Arkansas State 47–30
No. 105 North Texas at No. 67 ULM
ULM played its way into the national spotlight in September by beating Arkansas and losing by three to Auburn and by five to Baylor. But the Warhawks have fallen on hard times, with consecutive losses to UL Lafayette and Arkansas State. The once-explosive offense has struggled since quarterback Kolton Browning went down with an injury against UL Lafayette.
No. 69 Middle Tennessee at No. 122 South Alabama
Middle Tennessee needs to win its next two games — at South Alabama and vs. Troy — to set up a winner-take-all Sun Belt showdown at Arkansas State on Dec. 1.
Middle Tennessee 37–10
No. 111 Texas State at No. 70 Navy
Texas State scored 55 points and rolled up 577 yards of offense last week in a seven-point loss to Louisiana Tech. Not bad for a team in its first season in the FBS ranks.
No. 72 Purdue at No. 99 Illinois
Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in total offense in league play, averaging only 267.0 yards per game and 4.07 yards per play. Last week, the Fighting Illinois lost at home to Minnesota 17–3.
No. 85 Western Kentucky at No. 75 UL-Lafayette
Western Kentucky has played its way out of the Sun Belt race. After opening the conference slate with quality wins at Arkansas State and Troy, the Hilltoppers have lost three of four, including two at home (Middle Tennessee and FAU).
Alabama A&M at No. 78 Auburn
Alabama A&M is 7–3 overall but plays in one of the weakest FCS leagues (SWAC). Auburn should roll with ease.
No. 81 East Carolina at No. 115 Tulane
East Carolina still has an outside shot at the MAC East title. The Pirates must beat Tulane and Marshall and hope UCF loses at Tulsa (possible) and at home vs. UAB (not likely).
East Carolina 41–24
No. 86 Temple at No. 110 Army
Temple’s offensive woes continued last week at home vs. Cincinnati. The Owls recorded only 267 yards of offense in a 34–10 loss. They have failed to score more than 17 points in each of their last five games.
No. 88 SMU at No. 96 Rice
Garrett Gilbert, the former Texas Longhorn and one-time prep All-American, has thrown 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
in his first season at SMU. He ranks 10th in C-USA in passing efficiency.
No. 89 Nevada at No. 108 New Mexico
Nevada’s slump continues. The Wolf Pack lost their third-straight game last weekend, dropping a 52–36 decision at home to Fresno State. The offense has done its part, scoring 31 points or more in all three losses. The defense, however, has not cooperated. The Pack rank 91st nationally in total defense and 101st in scoring defense.
No. 118 Eastern Michigan at No. 90 Western Michigan
After breaking through with a 4–4 record last fall, Eastern Michigan is staring at a winless MAC season. The Eagles are 0–6 with a trip to Western Michigan and a home date with Northern Illinois. Ron English could be in trouble.
Western Michigan 31–20
Samford at No. 91 Kentucky
Joker Phillips will coach his last game in Lexington on Saturday against Samford. It will be an emotional day for a man who has spent the majority of his adult life at the University of Kentucky. The Franklin, Ky., native played for the Cats from 1981-84 and served on the UK staff in some capacity for 19 of his 25 years in coaching.
No. 94 Houston at No. 92 Marshall
It’s safe to say that Tony Levine’s first season as a head coach has not gone well. Houston is 4–6 overall and 3–3 in C-USA — one season after winning 13 games.
No. 114 Memphis at No. 97 UAB
Neither team has won many games this season, but it’s clear that both UAB and Memphis have improved under the direction of their first-year coaches — Garrick McGee (UAB) and Justin Fuente (Memphis).
No. 102 Buffalo at No. 119 UMass
UMass broke through with its first victory of the season last week, holding on to beat Akron 22–14 on the road. With home games remaining against Buffalo and Central Michgan, the Minutemen have an opportunity to end the season on a three-game winning streak.
No. 98 Miami (Ohio) at No. 106 Central Michigan
Central Michigan tailback Zurlon Tipton has rushed for 100 yards or more in four straight games, highlighted by a 243-yard, three-touchdown effort against Akron three weeks ago.
Central Michigan 34–28
No. 103 Wyoming at No. 113 UNLV
Wyoming is 2–0 since Dave Christensen’s return from his one-game suspension for calling Air Force coach Troy Calhoun a “flyboy” — among (many) other things.
No. 104 UTEP at No. 117 Southern Miss
Southern Miss has two more opportunities to pick up its first win of the Ellis Johnson era. The Golden Eagles are a 3.5-point dog at home this week and then travel to Memphis for the finale next weekend.
No. 116 UTSA at No. 123 Idaho
Idaho is limping to the finish line under interim head coach Jason Gesser. The Vandals rank last in the nation in scoring offense (15.4 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (43.0 ppg).
Last week: 41–12
All 14 SEC teams are in action this weekend, but there are only three games involving two league teams. And all three feature at least one team that needs to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Tennessee is 4–6 and needs to beat Vanderbilt this week and Kentucky next week to get to the six-win mark. Arkansas, also 4–6, has a tougher road. The Hogs need to win at Mississippi State and beat LSU in Fayetteville on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And Ole Miss, at 5–5, needs to win one more game, either at LSU this weekend or vs. Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.
Other Week 12 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 12:
1. Can Ole Miss pick up win No. 6 in Baton Rouge?
After losing at Georgia and at home to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss is down to two more opportunities to pick up that elusive sixth win. Conventional wisdom suggests the Rebels have a better chance of beating Mississippi State at home than LSU in Baton Rouge. And while that is probably true, the Rebels do have a history of playing very well at Tiger Stadium. Ole Miss is 4–4 in their last eight games in Baton Rouge with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points. One of the most noteworthy wins in the series came in 2008, when Houston Nutt’s first Rebel team won 31–13 at Tiger Stadium. That is the last time LSU has lost by more than 10 points at home. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, a Mississippi native who was a member of Ed Orgeron’s staff from 2005-07, knows the history of this series quite well. “One of the earliest memories I have is sitting in the stands and hearing exactly how the Ole Miss fans felt about LSU in almost any game,” Freeze says. “You always remember the Billy Cannons and all of those things. It's quite clear to me the rivalry that this is and how well Ole Miss usually plays LSU.”
2. Can we now call LSU a passing offense?
Something strange is happening in Baton Rouge. For the first time since November 2010, LSU has had more yards passing than rushing in two consecutive games (against FBS opponents). Two weeks ago, the Tigers threw for 296 yards and rushed for 139 in a 21–17 loss to Alabama. Last Saturday, they threw for 273 and rushed for 119 in a 37–17 win against Mississippi State. The reason for this new-found success in the passing game has been the improved play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. In his first four SEC games, Mettenberger completed 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions; in his last two games, he has completed 66.2 percent with three touchdowns and no picks. It’s not likely we will ever see a Les Miles-coached team fling the ball all over the field on a consistent basis, but it’s a positive sign that the Tigers are able to throw the ball down the field when needed.
3. Can Mississippi State slow down the Arkansas passing attack?
Mississippi State’s secondary has taken a beating in recent weeks. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 280 passing yards during their three-game losing streak. After seven games, all wins, MSU ranked 21st nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 188.6 yards per game. After losses to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, the Dogs have dropped to 43rd (216.0 ypg). This week, Arkansas comes calling. The Razorbacks have been one of the biggest disappointments in the nation, but they still do one thing very well — throw the ball down the field. The Hogs ranks 19th nationally in passing offense (302.6 ypg) and lead the SEC with eight passing plays of 50 yards or more. Arkansas isn’t as balanced as State’s three previous opponents, but this offense is more than capable of putting up a bunch of points on what has become a suspect Mississippi State defense.
4. Can Arkansas score some touchdowns?
There’s one stat that best illustrates Arkansas’ struggles in 2012. And it’s quite simple: The Razorbacks aren’t scoring enough touchdowns. Last year, with Bobby Petrino calling the plays, Arkansas scored 32 touchdowns in eight SEC games. This year, the Hogs have scored 16 touchdowns in six league games. There are mitigating factors — injuries to some key personnel, losses to graduation at wide receiver, etc. — but this is still a significant decrease in production. As a result, a team that was hoping to contend for an SEC West title is now fighting for bowl-eligibility.
5. Which SEC team is most at risk to losing to a FCS opponent this week?
No SEC team has lost to a member of the FCS ranks since Ole Miss opened the 2010 season with a 49–48 loss to Jacksonville State. This week, there are an unprecedented seven games featuring an SEC team vs. an FCS opponent. The league figures to win all seven, but there are a few teams that should be on upset alert. Kentucky, which is 1–9, hosts Samford (7–3) in the final home game of the Joker Phillips era. South Carolina takes on a solid Wofford team that is 8–2 overall and 6–2 in the SoCon. The schools have met twice in the past seven years, with Carolina winning 27–20 in 2006 and 23–13 in ’08. Struggling Auburn hosts Alabama A&M, which has a gaudy 7–3 record but plays in the weak SWAC. The biggest mismatch has to be Western Carolina vs. Alabama. The Catamounts are 1–9 and are allowing 519.8 yards and 40.0 points per game. It’s a safe bet that Alabama will bounce back from its only loss of the season with a comfortable win.
6. Can Vanderbilt do the unthinkable — end the season with a winning SEC record?
There have been a lot of firsts at Vanderbilt this season. Among the highlights: The Commodores have become bowl-eligibile for the second-straight season for the first time in school history; they recorded their first SEC shutout since 1968; and they have won three straight on the road in the SEC for the first time ever. Another significant milestone can be reached with a victory over Tennessee on Saturday — a winning record in the SEC. This has happened only one time since 1959, when Whit Taylor led the Dores to a 4–2 mark in league play in 1982. Since the SEC expanded in 1992, Vanderbilt has won more than two conference games only twice, 2005 (3–5) and 2008 (4–4).
7. Can the Tennessee defense step up?
Tennessee is allowing an average of 511.2 yards and 43.7 points in SEC games — staggering numbers for a program that has produced so many great defensive players over the past two decades. This weekend, the Vols face a Vanderbilt team that has some nice weapons but is far from an offensive juggernaut. The Commodores have scored 67 points over the last two weeks (in wins at Kentucky and Ole Miss) but had scored 19 or fewer in their first five SEC games. Tennessee’s suspect secondary will be challenged by the league’s most productive wide receiver duo — Jordan Matthews (1,003 yards) and Chris Boyd (686 yards). Historically, the Vols have made life very difficult on the Commodores. Tennessee has only lost to Vanderbilt once since 1982 and has only allowed the Dores to score more than 28 points once (in 2004) since 1987. This season, however, has defied history — for both schools.
8. Can Dorial Green-Beckham finish strong?
He’s had some big catches, but it’s fair to say that Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham, the nation’s top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2012, hasn’t been quite as productive as most expected. In nine games, DGB has caught 22 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. His most productive game was against Florida two weeks ago, when he caught six passes for 73 yards, but his biggest catch came last week in the overtime win at Tennessee. Facing 4th-and-12 from the 25-yard line with under one minute to play, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin found Green-Beckham alone in the corner of the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. DGB added a 10-yard touchdown reception in the third overtime. With two regular-season games remaining, plus a potential bowl game, Missouri would love to see Green-Beckham close his rookie campaign on a strong note.
9. Can Joker Phillips win his last game at Commonwealth Stadium?
Joker Phillips will coach his last game in Lexington on Saturday against Samford. It will be an emotional day for a man who has spent the majority of his adult life at the University of Kentucky. The Franklin, Ky., native played for the Cats from 1981-84 and served on the UK staff in some capacity for 19 of his 25 years in coaching. Phillips has a 12–23 record overall and a 4–19 mark in the SEC in his two-plus seasons as the head coach. The high-water mark of his tenure was a 10–7 win over Tennessee — the program’s first over the Vols since 1984 — in the final week of the 2011 season. The low point had to be a 40–0 loss to Vanderbilt two weeks ago before fewer than 20,000 at Commonwealth Stadium. This Saturday, the Cats host Samford, which is 7–3 in the FBS ranks, and then close the Phillips era with a trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee.
10. Who will win the SEC rushing title?
Two freshmen have separated themselves from the field in the quest for the SEC rushing title. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, with 1,014 yards, leads Georgia true freshman tailback Todd Gurley, who has 973 yards while sharing time with fellow rookie Keith Marshall. Gurley has a slight edge in yards per carry (6.53 to 6.50), but Manziel has more touchdowns (15 to 11). Vanderbilt true freshman Brian Kimbrow leads the league in yards per carry (7.20) but only has 55 attempts. Among players with at least 100 attempts, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon tops the list with 6.61 yards per carry.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Arkansas at Miss. State
Miss. State 35-21
|Miss. State 31-28||Miss. State 27-24||Miss. State 31-24|
|W. Carolina at Alabama||
|Jacksonville St. at Florida||
|Wofford at South Carolina||S. Carolina 38-10||S. Carolina 31-7||
S. Carolina 41-17
|S. Carolina 31-13|
|Ga. Southern at Georgia||
|Alabama A&M at Auburn||
|Ole Miss at LSU||
|Sam Houston St. at Texas A&M||
Texas A&M 42-13
|Texas A&M 41-10||
Texas A&M 56-20
|Texas A&M 48-10|
|Syracuse at Missouri||
|Tennessee at Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt 28-24||Vanderbilt 31-28||
|Samford at Kentucky||
College football's Week 12 schedule is highlighted by two huge battles in the Pac-12. Stanford visits Oregon in a game that likely will decide the South Division champion, while USC makes the short trip to UCLA for the game of the year in the South.
Stanford (+20.5) at Oregon
It’s a testament to Oregon’s dominance that the Ducks are favored by nearly three touchdowns against the second-best team in the Pac-12 North — and maybe the second-best team in the entire league. Stanford has been solid in 2012, with an overall mark of 8–2 and a 6–1 record in the league. Oregon, however, has been completely dominant. Consider the following: The Ducks have won their seven Pac-12 games by an average margin of 33.7 points and are outgaining their opponents by 161.8 yards per game. USC is the only team that has made Oregon sweat, but the Ducks still led by 10 points or more for all but six minutes in their 62–51 win at the L.A. Coliseum. Stanford will have to run the ball effectively against Oregon’s ordinary rush defense (fifth in the league) and hope to force some turnovers.
Ohio State (+3) at Wisconsin
Wisconsin wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with an emphatic 62–14 win at Indiana on Saturday. The Badgers rushed for an astounding 564 yards and seven touchdowns, led by Montee Ball (198 yards) and James White (161). UW’s dominance on the ground allowed the coaching staff to protect quarterback Curt Phillips, an oft-injured fifth-year senior who was making his first career start. Phillips only attempted seven passes for the entire game. The Badgers figure to need some semblance of offensive balance against Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes rank 16th nationally in rushing defense, though they did give up 223 yards on the ground to Nebraska and 224 to California. Ohio State has a two-game lead on Wisconsin in the Leaders Division but is not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions.
Ohio State 24–20
USC (-4) at UCLA
USC has been arguably the most disappointing team in the nation in 2012. UCLA has been one of the biggest surprises. The result: UCLA is one-half game up on its cross-town rival in the Pac-12 South and controls its own destiny to play in the league title game. The Bruins’ roster isn’t stocked with elite players but does have star power at two crucial positions — quarterback (Brett Hundley) and tailback (Johnathan Franklin). Hundley, a redshirt freshman, ranks second in the Pac-12 in total offense (301.1 ypg), and Franklin, a senior, ranks sixth nationally in rushing (127.0 ypg). The key for UCLA, however, will be on defense, where the Bruins must find a way to slow down the USC passing attack. UCLA ranks 103rd in the nation in pass defense and has given up 22 pass plays of 30 yards or more, the most in the Pac-12. That number figures to increase after Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are done with the UCLA secondary.
Rutgers (+6.5) at Cincinnati
Rutgers is the only unbeaten team in Big East play after Louisville’s loss on Saturday at Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights, though, have the toughest remaining schedule of the contenders, with trips to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and a home game with Louisville. A bigger concern for coach Kyle Flood has to be his team’s performance of late. The Knights lost at home to Kent State two weeks ago and then struggled with Army this past weekend. Rutgers was outgained 337-to-252 and didn’t hold its first lead until midway through the fourth quarter. Cincinnati rolled past Temple 34–10 in Brendon Kay’s first start at quarterback. Kay, a senior who beat out Munchie Legaux, completed 13-of-21 for 244 yards and two touchdowns and added 71 yards on the ground. The Bearcats are playing good football and are the better team.
Duke (+12.5) at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has played its way into the ACC Coastal Division race with consecutive wins at Maryland and North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets, 4–3 in the league, need to beat Duke this Saturday and then for Duke to beat Miami the following week. That would leave Tech all alone in first place with a 5–3 record. Duke controls its own destiny but needs to win at Georgia Tech and beat Miami at home to claim its first-ever division crown. Duke’s first order of business is finding a way to slow down Georgia Tech’s powerful offense. The Jackets rushed for 380 yards and seven touchdowns and threw for 208 yards and one score (on only seven completions) in a 68–50 win at North Carolina on Saturday. This is not a good matchup for a Duke team that ranks 85th in the nation in rushing defense and has given up an average of 43.8 points in its last four games.
Georgia Tech 44–30
Northwestern (+6.5) at Michigan State
Northwestern is 7–3 overall and has had double-digit leads in the second half of all three losses — at Penn State, vs. Nebraska and at Michigan. This team could easily be in thick of the Legends Division race. Michigan State, a preseason top-20 team, has been a big disappointment in 2012. The Spartans are 5–5 overall and tied for last place in the Legends with a 2–4 record. The culprit has been an offense that is averaging only 19.7 points per game. Running back Le’Veon Ball has done his part, averaging 106.5 yards in Big Ten games, but Andrew Maxwell simply hasn’t been good enough at the quarterback position. The stout Spartan defense will pose some problems for Northwestern’s run-based offense, but Michigan State will have trouble scoring enough points to win this game — even at home.
Oklahoma (-10.5) at West Virginia
This was expected to be one of the marquee games in the Big 12 this season. But that was before we knew just how bad West Virginia would be at preventing their opponents from gaining yards and scoring points. In league play, the Mountaineers are giving up an average of 517.8 yards and 51.0 points per game. Last weekend, Oklahoma State became the third team this season to score at least 55 points against WVU. Oklahoma could be the fourth. The Sooners have scored 35 points or more in all but one league game, a 24–19 loss to Kansas State in September. Landry Jones isn’t having a Heisman-worthy season, but the senior quarterback is averaging just under 300 yards passing per game and has 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. It will be a shock if he doesn’t have at least 20 touchdowns after Saturday’s trip to Morgantown.
UCF (+3) at Tulsa
These two teams likely will meet again in the Conference USA title game in a few weeks, with the winner serving as the host. Tulsa hasn’t missed a beat since Todd Graham bolted for Pittsburgh two years ago. Bill Blankenship, who coached in the high school ranks until 2005, is 13–1 in C-USA since taking over at his alma mater. The Golden Hurricane have two losses in 2012, at Iowa State by 15 and at Arkansas by four. UCF, too, has only lost to AQ conference teams, by 15 at Ohio State and by five at home to Missouri. The Knights struggled at home against a bad Southern Miss team in mid-October, but have been very impressive against the rest of the league.
Ole Miss (+18.5) at LSU
Ole Miss is now 0-for-2 in its attempts to become bowl-eligible. The Rebels appeared to be in control Saturday night against Vanderbilt after taking a 23–6 lead early in the third quarter, but the Commodores stormed back to claim a 27–26 win on a touchdown with just over one minute to play. Ole Miss has played well in recent trips to Baton Rouge: The Rebels are 4–4 in their last eight at Tiger Stadium with three of the losses coming by three points or fewer and the other by seven points. LSU has played well offensively the past two weeks, due in large part to the improved play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. In his first four SEC games, Mettenberger completed 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions; in his last two games, he has completed 66.2 percent with three touchdowns and no picks.
Syracuse (+4) at Missouri
This is a strange late-season non-conference game between two 5–5 teams searching for a sixth win to become bowl-eligible. There is far more pressure on Missouri, who still has to play at Texas A&M, to win this game. Syracuse, on the other hand, ends the season with Temple, which has lost four straight. This team will still get its sixth win at some point. Syracuse is coming off its best performance of the season, a surprisingly easy 45–26 victory at home against previously undefeated Louisville. The Orange ran for 278 yards and threw for 246, and have now had at least 475 yards in each of their last five games. Missouri won its first SEC road game last week — 51–48 in four overtimes at Tennessee — despite giving up 432 passing yards. That has to be a concern for Gary Pinkel and his staff. Syracuse, as mentioned, as been on a roll offensively, and quarterback Ryan Nassib has been productive all season.
Last week: 9–1 overall (8–2 against the spread)
Season: 75–35 overall (59–51 against the spread)
There was a huge upset in the SEC over the weekend, but not a lot changes in our power rankings. Alabama held on to its No. 1 spot — even after losing at home to Texas A&M — due to its body of work throughout the 2012 season. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss switched spots after the Commodores beat the Rebels in Oxford, and Missouri jumped Tennessee following its four OT win in Knoxville.
Post-Week 11 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel was terrific in Texas A&M’s thrilling 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama. The redshirt freshman completed 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns and added 92 yards on the ground. Manziel leads the SEC in rushing and total offense and ranks fourth in passing efficiency.
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron’s status on the this list is in jeopardy. The junior quarterback threw for a season-high 309 yards on Saturday, but he was intercepted twice as the Crimson Tide lost at home to Texas A&M. He has 2,158 yards with 20 touchdowns and two interceptions for the season.
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia — Murray has been solid throughout his junior season. He has thrown for 2,656 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he leads the league with 9.7 yards per attempt.
Post-Week 11 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney’s productivity has been down a bit of late due to nagging injuries, but he is still the best defensive player in the league. He had two tackles and one sack in the Gamecocks’ win over Arkansas on Saturday. For the season, the sophomore defensive end has 42 total tackles (17 for a loss) with 9.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones continues to shine for the Bulldogs. He had four tackles with two sacks on Saturday against Auburn and now has 17 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks for the season.
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end recorded five tackles and one sack in the Aggies’ win at Alabama. He continues to lead the SEC in tackles for a loss with 20.0 and sacks with 12.5.
Post-Week 11 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — It helps to have one of the most electric players in college football running the show, but Sumlin deserves a ton of credit for the Aggies’ 5–2 SEC record. They have two close losses at home to top-10 teams (Florida and LSU) and on Saturday knocked off a No. 1 team for only the second time in school history.
2. James Franklin, Vanderbilt — The Commodores are bowl-eligible for the second straight season for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt rallied from 17 down in the second half to beat Ole Miss 27–26 for its fourth straight win overall and its fourth SEC win of the season.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators aren’t exactly playing their best ball of late, but Muschamp has this program back among the nation’s elite. Last year, in his first on the job, Florida went 3–5 in the SEC. This year, the Gators went 7–1.
Post-Week 11 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (9–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 10 result: Lost to Texas A&M 29–24
Alabama’s hopes for a second straight national title took a huge hit Saturday afternoon with a 29–24 loss at home to surging Texas A&M. The Aggies jumped on the Tide early, scoring three first quarter touchdowns — on drives of 87, 41 and 80 yards — against a defense that had surrendered a total of 10 touchdowns in its first nine games. Alabama has now given up a total of 853 yards in its last two games — a win at LSU and a loss to Texas A&M — after not allowing more than 300 yards in any of its first eight games. The Tide also have lost the turnover battle in the past two games, 2-to-0 to LSU and 3-to-0 to A&M on Saturday. Quarterback AJ McCarron, who did not throw a pick in the first nine games, was intercepted twice by the Aggies. The junior quarterback has dropped from first to seventh nationally in passing efficiency in the past two weeks. Alabama must now beat Auburn in two weeks to wrap up the SEC West title.
Next week: Western Carolina
2. Georgia (9–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 10 result: Beat Auburn 38–0
Georgia clinched a spot in the SEC Championship Game for a second straight season and kept alive its slim national title hopes with a 38–0 win at Auburn. The Bulldogs’ offense operated at high efficiency, with Aaron Murray completing 18-of-24 for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall rushing for more than 100 yards. The Georgia defense shut down Auburn’s running game, allowing a net of 57 yards rushing on 27 attempts. Georgia, which hosts Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech in the next two weeks, is 14–2 in the SEC over the last two seasons. The Dawgs, ranked No. xx in the latest BCS standings, need to beat Alabama (the likely opponent) in the SEC title game and hope that two of the three undefeated teams lose in the next two weeks.
Next week: Georgia Southern
3. Florida (9–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 10 result: Beat UL Lafayette 27–20
Florida averted disaster with a huge play on special teams in the final seconds. The Gators broke a 20–20 tie when Jelani Jenkins returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining the game. Once again, the Florida offense struggled. The Gators managed only 311 total yards and two offensive touchdowns against a ULL defense that gave up 50 points two weeks ago against Arkansas State and 65 points to Oklahoma State in a Week 3 loss. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was having a solid game (13-of-16 for 98 yards, 76 yards rushing) before leaving with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. Jacoby Brissett came on in relief and completed 6-of-8 for 64 yards. Florida, ranked No. X in the BCS standings, ends the season with non-conference games against Jacksonville State and Florida State.
Next week: Jacksonville State
4. LSU (8–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 10 result: Beat Mississippi State 37–17
LSU broke open a close game in the second half to beat Mississippi State for the 11th-straight time in Baton Rouge. MSU cut what was a 10-point lead at the half to three with a touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter, but LSU scored the game’s final 17 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was sharp for the second straight game, completing 19-of-30 passes for 273 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Tigers rushed for 119 yards on 38 attempts, spreading the carries between Jeremy Hill (15), Russell Shepard (eight), Kenny Hilliard (five) and Spencer Ware (five). Hill, who had 48 yards, had his streak of 100-yard games snapped at three. The LSU defense gave up a season-high 304 yards passing but did not allow State to get much going on the ground. Nick Griffin led the Bulldogs with 38 yards on 11 attempts.
Next week: Ole Miss
5. Texas A&M (8–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 10 result: Beat Alabama 29–24
Playing on the biggest stage of his young career, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel delivered a performance that will go down in Aggie lore. The redshirt freshman completed 24-of-31 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 92 yards rushing to lead A&M to a stunning 29–24 win over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies stormed out to a 20–0 lead in the first quarter on the strength of three long touchdown drives. Their offense stalled for much of the second half, but they came up with a huge defensive stop inside the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter to preserve one of the biggest wins in school history. With Manziel running the show, Texas A&M is averaging an astounding 531.9 yards in SEC play — and that includes games against three of the top-five defensive teams in the nation (Alabama, LSU and Florida).
Next week: Sam Houston State
6. South Carolina (8–2, 6–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 10 result: Beat Arkansas 38–10
South Carolina completed its second straight SEC season with a 6–2 record by snapping a three-game losing streak to Arkansas. Playing for the first time without injured tailback Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks struggled to run the ball with consistency. Mike Davis was solid, averaging 4.1 yards on his 13 carries, but Carolina’s other ball-carriers netted only 58 yards on 28 carries. Connor Shaw was productive in the passing game, throwing for 272 yards on only 22 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception. The total yards were close (383 for South Carolina to 360 for Arkansas), but the Gamecocks won the turnover battle 3-to-1 and were far more efficient on third down (7-of-13).
Next week: Wofford
7. Mississippi State (7–3, 3–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 10 result: Lost to LSU 37–17
Mississippi State dropped its third straight game — all against ranked opponents — to fall to .500 in SEC play. The Bulldog offense, which scored 27 points or more in its seven wins, has now scored 17 points or fewer in each of the last three games. State had success throwing the ball for most of the night, recording 304 yards on 27 completions, but the running game stalled. Starting tailback LaDarius Perkins missed his first career game after straining a quad during practice earlier in the week. Nick Griffin stepped in as the primary ball-carrier and rushed for 38 yards on 11 carries. The Bulldogs have now lost 13 straight to LSU, though they did hold a lead (7–0) for the first time in Tiger Stadium since 1994.
Next week: Arkansas
8. Vanderbilt (6–4, 4–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 10 result: Beat Ole Miss 27–26
Vanderbilt rallied from 17 points down in the second half to beat Ole Miss 27–26 Saturday night in Oxford. The Commodores have now won four straight games overall and are bowl-eligible for the second straight season — for the first time in school history. Vanderbilt was forced to play the majority of the game without senior tailback Zac Stacy, who went down with a knee injury on the first possession. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers overcame a slow start and ended the night with 267 yards and two touchdowns. He hit sophomore wide receiver Chris Boyd on a 26-yard pass down the sideline to give the Dores their first lead with 1:09 to play. Jordan Matthews, the other half of the SEC’s most productive wide receiving duo, caught nine passes for 153 yards and now has 1,003 yards for the season. Vanderbilt has won three straight and six of the past eight against Ole Miss.
Next week: Tennessee
9. Ole Miss (5–5, 2–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 10 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 27–26
Ole Miss is now 0-for-2 in its attempts to become bowl-eligible. The Rebels appeared to be in control Saturday night against Vanderbilt after taking a 23–6 lead early in the third quarter, but the Commodores stormed back to claim a 27–26 win on a touchdown with just over one minute to play. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace threw for a career-high 403 yards — against a team that entered the game ranked third nationally in pass defense — but the Rebels’ offense repeatedly stalled in the Red Zone. Bryson Rose kicked four field goals, three from 28 yards or shorter. Four Ole Miss receivers caught at least five passes, with Ja-Mes Logan leading the way with career highs in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (160). Ole Miss will have two more opportunities — at LSU and vs. Mississippi State — to pick up win No. 6.
Next week: at LSU
10. Arkansas (4–6, 2–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 10 result: Lost to South Carolina 38–20
Arkansas recorded 360 total yards but scored only one offensive touchdown in the game’s first 59 minutes en route to their first loss against South Carolina since 2008. The Hogs, who dropped to 2–4 in the SEC, were undone by three turnovers — two picks thrown by Tyler Wilson and a fumble by tailback Dennis Johnson. Wilson, who threw for 277 yards, has been intercepted five times in the past three games. Tailback Knile Davis missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Arkansas, a preseason top-15 team, needs to win its final two games (at Mississippi State, vs. LSU) to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: at Mississippi State
11. Missouri (5–5, 2–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 10 result: beat Tennessee 51–48 (4ot)
Missouri picked up its first SEC road win in dramatic fashion, outlasting Tennessee in four overtimes. The Tigers were completely dominated in first half — UT held a 383-to-64 advantage in total yards — but trailed by only 14 points at the break. Mizzou eventually tied the game late in the fourth quarter when James Franklin found Dorial Green-Beckham in the end zone on fourth down from the Tennessee 25-yard line. Missouri won the game in the fourth overtime on an Andrew Baggett a 35-yard field goal. Franklin completed only 2-of-8 for 18 yards in the first half but ended the game 19-of-32 with 226 yards and four touchdowns (three in overtime). Kendial Lawrence ran for 153 yards and two scores — a 77-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half and a 2-yard plunge late in the third quarter. Missouri needs to split its final two games — vs. Syracuse, at Texas A&M — to become bowl-eligible for the eighth straight season.
Next week: Syracuse
12. Tennessee (4–6, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 10 result: Lost to Missouri 51–48 (4ot)
Tennessee lost in SEC play for the 13th time in its last 14 games, falling at home in four overtimes to a Missouri team that had scored 10 points or fewer in four of its five previous league games. The Vols dominated the first half, outgaining Missouri 383-to-64, but were unable to build a lead larger than 14 points at anytime in the game. Quarterback Tyler Bray continues to shine in tough times for Tennessee. The junior threw for 404 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and now has 1,302 yards in the last three games. The loss dropped Tennessee to 0–6 in the SEC and is a crippling blow for third-year head coach Derek Dooley. He is now 15–20 overall and 4–18 in SEC games at Tennessee.
Next week: at Vanderbilt
13. Auburn (2–8, 0–7 SEC)
Last week's rank: 13
Week 10 result: Lost to Georgia 38–0
Auburn put up little resistance in yet another lopsided loss in what has become a nightmare season for embattled coach Gene Chizik. The Tigers had only one drive that went for more than 50 yards and were outgained by more than 250 yards. There was one bright spot: Quarterback Jonathan Wallace, in his first start vs. an SEC opponent, completed 15-of-22 passes for 181 yards. Not bad for a true freshman who was used exclusively in Wildcat packages for the first half of the season. Auburn ranks 115th in the nation in total offense (298.5 ypg) and 90th in total defense (435.6 ypg) — stunning numbers for a program that won a national title two years ago. The Tigers figure to get back in the win column next week against Alabama A&M, but then close the season with a trip to Tuscaloosa.
Next week: Alabama A&M
14. Kentucky (1–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 10 result: Bye
The big news at Kentucky last week was the dismissal of Joker Phillips, who is 4–19 in his two-plus seasons as the head coach at his alma mater. Phillips will coach the final two games of the season, vs. Samford this weekend and at Tennessee on Nov. 24.
Next week: Samford
College football’s Week 11 schedule is highlighted by key games in the Big Ten Legends Division, Pac-12 North and SEC West. Also, Georgia can clinch the SEC East with a win at Auburn, and Miami can take another step toward an ACC Coastal Division crown with a victory at Virginia.
No. 51 Pittsburgh at No. 87 Connecticut
Pittsburgh just missed pulling off the upset of the year in South Bend last weekend. The Panthers are playing better as the season progresses, but it’s not a good sign when your defense gives up 291 yards passing to Notre Dame.
No. 14 Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama is riding high after its thrilling win in Baton Rouge, but Nick Saban can’t be pleased that his defense gave up a season-high 435 yards — 232 more than its previous season average — to an LSU team that had averaged only 318.3 yards in its first four SEC games. The Crimson Tide can wrap up the SEC West title with a win.
No. 2 Oregon at No. 74 California
Cal is 2–5 in the Pac-12 and still has to play two teams (Oregon and Oregon State) that are a combined 11–1 in the league. The Bears also have issues at quarterback; starter Zach Maynard is questionable for this week’s game after injuring his knee against Washington.
No. 3 Kansas State at No. 28 TCU
Kansas State held on to its No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after knocking off Oklahoma State 44–30 last weekend. But the big story in Manhattan is the health of Collin Klein, the Heisman frontrunner. Klein was forced out in the third quarter of the O-State game with an undisclosed injury that has been reported by some to be a concussion. K-State coach Bill Snyder says he expect Klein to play, but Snyder has been known to bend the truth on the injury front.
Kansas State 34–21
No. 4 Notre Dame at No. 94 Boston College
Amazingly, Boston College won six straight in this series from 2001-08 (they didn’t play every year), but Notre Dame has rebounded to win three straight. BC has scored 17 points or fewer in its last four vs. Notre Dame. That trend will continue.
Notre Dame 27–3
No. 6 Georgia at No. 72 Auburn
Georgia can secure a spot in the SEC title game for the second straight season with a win on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be facing a true freshman quarterback (Jonathan Wallace) who will be making his first start against an SEC team.
No. 76 UL Lafayette at No. 7 Florida
The Gators would like to get Mike Gillislee going for the stretch drive. The senior tailback has had four straight sub-100-yard games and still needs 203 yards to become Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004.
No. 25 Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU
In the past two weeks, MSU has dropped from 48th to 73rd nationally in total offense and from 25th to 50th in total defense. There is no shame in losing decisively at Alabama, but the Bulldogs were alarmingly uncompetitive at home against Texas A&M. The task this week will be to do something that no Bulldog team has done since 1991 — win in Baton Rouge.
No. 45 Arkansas at No. 9 South Carolina
The Hogs have won three straight in the series, the last two in convincing fashion against very good Carolina teams. Two years ago, Ryan Mallet, Knile Davis & Co. rolled up 443 yards of offense in a 41¬–20 victory in Columbia. Last season, Tyler Wilson and friends outgained the Gamecocks 435-to-207 en route to a 44–28 win in Fayetteville. Now, it’s time for payback.
South Carolina 33–17
No. 79 Maryland at No. 11 Clemson
Shawn Petty, who was a linebacker two weeks ago, played relatively well in his debut as Maryland’s quarterback. He completed 9-of-18 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Not bad. But not good enough to challenge Clemson.
No. 43 Baylor at No. 12 Oklahoma
Baylor is the only team in the nation that is giving up more than 500 yards per game. That is not good.
No. 13 Oregon State at No. 16 Stanford
Redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan will make his first start at quarterback for Stanford. In last week’s 48–0 win over Washington State, Hogan replaced Josh Nunes after two series and went on to complete 18-of-23 for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 15 Louisville at No. 63 Syracuse
Louisville is ranked No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, but the Cardinals — other than being 9–0 — don’t really have the résumé of a top-10 team. They beat FIU (2–8) by seven points, Southern Miss (0–9) by four points and South Florida (3–6) by two points. They have two solid wins, over North Carolina and Cincinnati, but those were by a combined eight points and both were at home.
No. 17 UCLA at No. 100 Washington State
It’s fair to say Washington State isn’t running the ball well this season. The Cougars have a total of 76 rushing yards in six Pac-12 games. Colorado is next with 576 yards.
No. 27 Penn State at No. 18 Nebraska
Nebraska has seized control of the Leaders Division with consecutive wins over Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers, 4–1 in the league, are one game up on both Northwestern and Michigan and now hold the tie-breaker over both teams.
No. 34 Iowa State at No. 19 Texas
Texas will open the game in the Wishbone to honor former Longhorn coach Darrell Royal, who passed away earlier this week. Royal went 167–47–5 in 20 seasons as the boss in Austin.
No. 31 Northwestern at No. 20 Michigan
Northwestern tailback Venric Mark had 23 carries in his first two seasons. This year, Mark has emerged as the Wildcats’ top offensive weapon with 1,072 yards on a healthy 6.5-yard average.
No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 112 Texas State
Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes will be a hot commodity in the coaching world following the 2012 season. And for good reason. His teams win and do so playing an exciting brand of football.
Louisiana Tech 41, Texas State 13
No. 37 Arizona State at No. 22 USC
USC has given up a total of 1,318 yards in its last two games, losses at Arizona and to Oregon at home.
No. 81 Kansas at No. 23 Texas Tech
Texas Tech gave up a total of 43 points in its first four games. The Raiders have given up 41 or more three times since. That, however, won’t happen this week.
Texas Tech 47–10
No. 99 Colorado at No. 24 Arizona
Colorado has allowed 55 touchdowns this season, most in the nation. Alabama has allowed 82 points this season.
No. 107 Army at No. 26 Rutgers
Army is the only team in the nation that has two players averaging over 100 yards rushing per game — quarterback Trent Steelman (101.2 ypg) and slot back Raymond Maples (100.8 ypg).
No. 29 Wisconsin at No. 67 Indiana
Amazingly, this game — between two teams with a combined nine overall losses — could determine who represents the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game.
No. 33 West Virginia at No. 30 Oklahoma State
Things have changed quite a bit in the past month for West Virginia. In early October, the Mountaineers were 5–0 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Now, WVU is 5–3, unranked and a 7.5-point underdog to an Oklahoma State team that also has three losses.
Oklahoma State 48–40
No. 61 Utah at No. 32 Washington
Utah has scored a total of 98 points in the past two weeks, climbing from 105th in the nation in scoring (20.1 ppg) to 72nd (26.6 ppg). Washington’s defense has played well of late, holding Oregon State to 17 and California to 13 in back-to-back wins.
No. 41 Vanderbilt at No. 38 Ole Miss
Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. Last year, the Commodores won 30–7 in Nashville for their most decisive win vs. Ole Miss since beating the Rebs 91–0 in 1915.
No. 71 Georgia Tech at No. 39 North Carolina
North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard has been one of the best running backs in the nation in the past month. The sophomore has 717 yards and six touchdowns in the past four games.
North Carolina 31–23
No. 40 Miami (Fla.) at No. 83 Virginia
Virginia snapped a six-game losing streak last week with a surprisingly easy 33–6 win at NC State. Miami controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal. If the Canes beat Virginia this week and win at Duke on Nov. 24, they will advance to the league title game.
Miami (Fla.) 21–13
No. 42 Cincinnati at No. 84 Temple
Temple exploded for 37 points in its Big East opener (a win vs. South Florida) but has not scored more than 17 points since. The Owls are last in the league in total offense, as well.
No. 56 Missouri at No. 44 Tennessee
Tennessee’s historically bad defense is coming off its worst game of the season. The Volunteers gave up an astounding 721 yards of offense to a Troy team that had 381 yards the previous week in a loss to FAU. For the season, the Vols rank last in the league in both yards allowed per game (483.1) and yards allowed per play (6.31).
No. 46 Tulsa at No. 90 Houston
Tulsa is the only team in Conference USA West with a winning overall record. The Golden Hurricane are 7–2 with losses at Iowa State and Arkansas.
No. 47 Boise State at No. 120 Hawaii
Boise State, which lost at home to San Diego State last weekend, has multiple regular-season losses for the first time since 2007.
Boise State 48–0
No. 50 Kent State at No. 97 Miami (Ohio)
Kent State has almost doubled its scoring average from last season. The Golden Flashes are averaging 34.0 points per game — up from 17.1 last season.
Kent State 34–23
No. 122 Idaho at No. 54 BYU
BYU dips down in competition this week after playing Oregon State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in successive games. The Cougars should have this one wrapped up by the middle of the second quarter.
No. 80 Wake Forest at No. 55 NC State
NC State had one of the most puzzling losses of the season last week, dropping a 33–6 decision at home to a Virginia team that had lost six straight games.
NC State 34–17
No. 57 UCF at No. 102 UTEP
UCF is in control of C-USA East with a 5–0 record. The Knights have allowed exactly 17 points in each of their last three games.
No. 58 Fresno State at No. 88 Nevada
Nevada is averaging 33.3 points in its three losses — to South Florida, San Diego State and Air Force. The Wolf Pack will need to score a bunch to beat Fresno State, which has scored 42 points in each of its last three games.
Fresno State 42–41
No. 95 Air Force at No. 59 San Diego State
San Diego State is coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 21–19 victory at Boise State. It was SDSU’s first win over a ranked opponent since 1996. The Aztecs are now 5–1 in the MWC and will be favored in their final two games.
San Diego State 33–17
No. 64 San Jose State at No. 123 New Mexico State
San Jose State visits Las Cruces for a tune-up before returning home for a tough two-game stretch against BYU and Louisiana Tech.
San Jose State 44–10
No. 65 Navy at No. 85 Troy
Troy rolled up 721 yards of offense on the road against an SEC team — and lost. The Trojans took a 48–41 lead on Tennessee with 3:14 remaining but gave up two touchdowns in the final three minutes and lost 55–48.
No. 77 Purdue at No. 68 Iowa
Neither of these teams has won a game since Oct. 13, when Iowa somehow beat Michigan State on the road. Purdue has lost five straight — all in league play and all by seven points or more.
No. 69 Minnesota at No. 98 Illinois
These are two of the four Big Ten teams that are ranked 68th or worse in this week’s Athlon Sports 124 rankings. Minnesota has shown signs of life this year. Illinois has been a complete debacle.
No. 117 FAU at No. 73 Western Kentucky
FAU beat a team two weeks ago (Troy) that rolled up 721 yards of offense at Tennessee last Saturday. What does that mean? Probably nothing.
Western Kentucky 31–13
No. 82 Marshall at No. 104 UAB
Marshall is one of 11 teams nationally that has allowed more than 2,000 yards rushing this season. It’s a good thing for the Herd that UAB ranks 11th in Conference USA in rushing with 111.0 yards per game.
No. 86 Western Michigan at No. 108 Buffalo
Buffalo ranks last in the nation with only six turnovers forced — two fumbles and four interceptions. That’s a big reason the Bulls rank 85th nationally in scoring defense despite ranking 49th in total defense.
No. 111 Southern Miss at No. 89 SMU
Southern Miss’ dreadful 2012 season took another horrific turn last weekend. The Golden Eagles led UAB 16–0 at the half at home yet found a way to lose, 27–19. Ellis Johnson’s team is now an unthinkable 0–9 — one year winning 12 games.
No. 101 UNLV at No. 119 Colorado State
UNLV played its best game of the season last weekend, passing for 289 yards and rushing for 241 in a 35–7 win over New Mexico. There has been talk about Bobby Hauck’s job status, but there is a decent chance the Runnin’ Rebels could end their season on a four-game winning streak.
No. 103 Tulane at No. 118 Memphis
Tulane scored a total of 45 points in its first five games. The Green Wave have scored 102 in their last two.
No. 113 Wyoming at No. 105 New Mexico
New Mexico ranks last in the nation in passing yards (535), passing yards per attempt (4.6) and passing touchdowns (two). To be fair, the Lobos are running the option, but that is still alarmingly low production.
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 106 North Texas
North Texas doesn’t do very much well, but the Mean Green are outstanding at not letting the opposition sack the quarterback. They’ve allowed five in nine games; only three teams (Air Force, Oklahoma State and Tennessee) have allowed fewer.
North Texas 17–10
No. 110 Central Michigan at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
Dan Enos is on thin ice in Mount Pleasant. He might be gone if the Chips lose to their rivals from Ypsilanti.
Central Michigan 34–33
No. 124 UMass at No. 114 Akron
These two MAC East teams are a combined 1–19, with the one win coming by Akron over Morgan State in Week 3. UMass has been outscored 136–7 in the last three games.
McNeese State at No. 116 UTSA
McNeese State opened the season with a win at Middle Tennessee, which is now 6–2 against FBS competition. This will be a tough test for Larry Coker’s club.
Last week: 42–11
College football’s Week 11 slate is highlighted by a key matchup in the Pac-12 North (Oregon State visits Stanford), an intriguing showdown in the SEC West (Texas A&M travels to Alabama) and several key games in the Big Ten.
Oregon State (+5) at Stanford
Oregon is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 North, but Oregon State and Stanford are both 5–1 in the league and both teams still have a date with the Ducks. So the winner of this game will have an opportunity to play its way into the second Pac-12 title game. The other storyline is the quarterback situation at both schools. In Stanford’s 48–0 win over Colorado last week, redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan replaced Josh Nunes after two series and went on to complete 18-of-23 for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Coach David Shaw named Hogan as the starter earlier this week. At Oregon State, Cody Vaz has apparently taken over for Sean Mannion, who struggled in his one game back from a knee injury. Vaz, a junior, threw for 267 yards and three scores in a 10-point win over Arizona State on Saturday night. It’s rare that two teams this good are unsettled at quarterback this late in the season.
Texas A&M (+13.5) at Alabama
After seeing a CBS promo for the Texas A&M-Alabama game, my 8-year-old son asked the following: “Do you think Johnny Football will gain a lot of yards against Alabama?” That’s a good question: Can Johnny Manziel, who threw for 311 yards and rushed for 129 in last week’s win at Mississippi State, do his thing against the mighty Crimson Tide? Much has been made of Manziel’s “struggles” against the top defenses he has faced, but he still averaged 268 yards of total offense in losses — by a total of 10 points — to Florida and LSU. Alabama is riding high after its thrilling win in Baton Rouge, but Nick Saban can’t be pleased that his defense gave up a season-high 435 yards — 232 more than its previous season average — to an LSU team that had averaged only 318.3 yards in its first four SEC games. The Crimson Tide can wrap up the SEC West title with a win.
Wisconsin (+7) at Indiana
Amazingly, this game — between two teams with a combined nine overall losses — could determine who represents the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State (6–0 Big Ten) and Penn State (4–1) are the top two teams in the division, but both are ineligible to play in the title game due to NCAA sanctions. That leaves 3–2 Wisconsin, which is struggling through its worst season since 2008, and 2–3 Indiana, which has won four of it last 25 games vs. FBS competition, as the next best options. To its credit, IU is showing signs of significant improvement in Kevin Wilson’s second season in Bloomington. The Hoosiers flirted with upsets over Michigan State (lost 31–27) and Ohio State (lost 52–49) early last month before breaking through with two straight Big Ten wins, at Illinois and vs. Iowa at home. Wisconsin had a three-game winning streak snapped two weeks ago at home to Michigan State. The Badgers lost quarterback Joel Stave to a season-ending injury and will reportedly send out senior Curt Phillips, who has suffered three torn ACLs in his career.
Penn State (+7) at Nebraska
Nebraska has seized control of the Leaders Division with consecutive wins over Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers, 4–1 in the league, are one game up on both Northwestern and Michigan and now hold the tie-breaker over both teams. Last Saturday, Nebraska rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat Michigan State in East Lansing. Quarterback Taylor Martinez was largely ineffective throwing the ball (16-of-36 for 160 yards with three INTs), but he rushed for 205 yards and two scores to lead a ground attack that totaled 313 yards on 40 attempts. Penn State rebounded from a 35–23 loss at home to Ohio State by drilling Purdue on the road 34–9. Matt McGloin had another big game, throwing for 321 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. McGloin will have to solve a Nebraska defense that has been very good against the pass. The Huskers rank eighth nationally in pass efficiency defense and fifth in passing yards allowed (156.0 ypg).
Kansas State (-7.5) at TCU
Kansas State held on to its No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after knocking off Oklahoma State 44–30 last weekend. But the big story in Manhattan is the health of Collin Klein, the Heisman frontrunner. Klein was forced out in the third quarter of the O-State game with an undisclosed injury that has been reported by some to be a concussion. His status for Saturday’s game in Fort Worth most likely won’t be known until game time. If Klein can’t go, redshirt freshman Daniel Sams will get the call. Sams completed 5-of-6 passes for 45 yards and ran for 20 yards in relief on Saturday. TCU has been playing with its No. 2 quarterback, Trevone Boykin, since early October. Boykin is 2–3 as a starter, with wins over Baylor and West Virginia, and losses to Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Last weekend, he completed only 12-of-29 passes, but those 12 completions went for 254 yards and two touchdowns to help the Horned Frogs upset West Virginia in Morgantown. TCU’s numbers are down on defense, but this team has shown it can score points in bunches vs. most Big 12 teams.
Kansas State 34–21
Northwestern (+11) at Michigan
Northwestern is 7–2 overall and had a double-digit lead in both of its losses — at Penn State (39–28) and vs. Nebraska (29–28). The Wildcats rank 13th nationally in rushing offense (237.6 ypg) thanks in part to the emergence of tailback Venric Mark. A junior who had only 23 carries in his first two seasons, Mark has rushed for 1,072 yards and nine scores on a healthy 6.5-yard average. Michigan has a dynamic playmaker of its own in Denard Robinson, but the senior quarterback missed all of last week’s game and a large portion of the Nebraska game with an elbow injury. He is expected to play this week, but the injury could be a factor for the rest of the season. Michigan is still alive in the Legends Division race, but the Wolverines will need some help; they are tied with Nebraska at 4–1. but the Huskers have the tie-breaker and have an easier schedule.
Florida State (-13.5) at Virginia Tech (Thu)
This figured to be the game of the year in the ACC, a showdown against the overwhelming favorites in the Atlantic and Coastal. Well, Florida State has done its part, with a 5–1 league record and a top-10 national ranking. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, has been a colossal disappointment, with an overall record of 4–5 and a 2–3 mark in the ACC. The Hokies’ five losses are the most since the 2003 team went 8–5; they haven’t lost six games in a season since 1992 (2–8–1). Virginia Tech hasn’t been horrible in any one area (though it ranks 91st in turnover margin), but the Hokies haven’t been good at anything, either. The usually stout defense has given up 30 points or more four times, and the running attack has been average at best. It will be a surprise if Florida State does not win this game by a comfortable margin.
Florida State 35–21
Vanderbilt (+3) at Ole Miss
It’s a huge game for two programs searching for their sixth win of the season. Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. Last year, the Commodores won 30–7 in Nashville for their most decisive win vs. Ole Miss since beating the Rebs 91–0 in 1915. This, however, is a much-improved Ole Miss team that has made significant progress on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. The key to this game could be quarterback Bo Wallace, a Tennessee native who is a threat with his arm and his legs. Wallace, however, has thrown nine interceptions in the Rebs’ six games against AQ conference teams. Vanderbilt must win the turnover battle and limit Wallace in the zone read — something that has been a problem for the Commodores at times.
West Virginia (+7.5) at Oklahoma State
Things have changed quite a bit in the past month for West Virginia. In early October, the Mountaineers were 5–0 and ranked in the top five in both major polls. Now, WVU is 5–3, unranked and a 7.5-point underdog to an Oklahoma State team that also has three losses. The Mountaineers have allowed an average of 532.8 yards and 50.2 points in their five Big 12 games. Those numbers might be even worse after this week’s trip to Stillwater. Oklahoma State, despite injuries at the quarterback position, is averaging 509.2 yards in its five Big 12 games, second only to Baylor (589.2 ypg). The Cowboys likely won’t know who will start at quarterback until late this week; true freshman Wes Lunt, the opening day starter, was sidelined in the Kansas State game with an undisclosed injury. Junior Clint Shelf, in his first appearance of the season, stepped in and completed 16-of-27 for 233 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh was lost for the season with a torn ACL three weeks ago.
Oklahoma State 48–40
Louisville (-3) at Syracuse
Louisville is ranked No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, but the Cardinals — other than being 9–0 — don’t really have the résumé of a top-10 team. They beat FIU (2–8) by seven points, Southern Miss (0–9) by four points and South Florida (3–6) by two points. They have two solid wins, over North Carolina and Cincinnati, but those were by a combined eight points and both were at home. Syracuse is playing pretty well despite its overall mark of 4–5. Each of the Orange’s five losses has come to an AQ conference team that currently has a winning record. Syracuse’s strength is throwing the ball. Louisville’s strength — at least one of them — is stopping the pass. Whoever wins this battle will have a great chance to win the game. Go Orange in the upset.
Last week: 8–2 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 66–34 overall (51–49 against the spread)
Georgia can secure its second straight SEC East title with a win at Auburn. If the Bulldogs stumble, Florida, which has already concluded its SEC season (7–1), would make the trip to Atlanta. Alabama can wrap up the West with a victory at home against Texas A&M.
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11
1. Can Johnny Manziel thrive against an elite defense?
Much has been made of John Manziel’s “struggles” against the top defenses he has faced, but he still averaged 268 yards of total offense in losses — by a total of eight points — to Florida and LSU. Now, he gets a stab at the mighty Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Last week, Nick Saban’s team showed signs of weakness — the Tide gave up a season-high 435 yards — in a 21–17 win in Baton Rouge, but this is still one of the top two or three defenses in the country. Manziel is fresh off a brilliant performance in Texas A&M’s 38–13 win at Mississippi State. He completed 30-of-36 passes for 311 yards and added 129 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. It was the fourth time this season that he has had at least 275 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. Manziel will be the second elite dual-threat quarterback that Alabama has played against this season. In the opener, the Tide shut down Michigan’s Denard Robinson, holding him to 227 yards of total offense, including a net of only 27 on the ground. Manziel might not be as electric running the ball — though it’s close — but he has proven to be a better passer than Robinson.
2. Can Alabama play with enough emotion this week?
Alabama remained unbeaten with a 21–17 win in Baton Rouge last Saturday night — but it was far from easy. The Crimson Tide expended a ton of energy in one of the most emotional regular-season games in recent memory. AJ McCarron, the winning quarterback, was crying on the bench before the game was even over. Nick Saban, usually one of the most stoic coaches in the game, was visibly moved during his postgame interview. True, this was only one win. But there is no denying its importance. Now, only seven days later, Saban must have the Tide ready — both physically and emotionally — to play a very good Texas A&M team that will demand their attention on both sides of the ball. Saban is a master at keeping his team focused, but it won’t be a surprise if Alabama is a bit flat this week when the Aggies roll into town.
3. Was that the real Zach Mettenberger?
There are no moral victories at LSU — that’s obvious. There were, however, some positives to come out of the Tigers’ 21–17 loss to Alabama. For the first time since he stepped foot on campus, Zach Mettenberger played like a high-level SEC quarterback. The strong-armed junior — who many expected to provide an upgrade at the quarterback position — had been a huge disappointment through the first two-thirds of the season. Prior to the Alabama game, Mettenberger had completed only 46.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown against SEC competition. What was expected to be a strength had become a liability. But somehow, some way, Mettenberger enjoyed the game of his life against the Crimson Tide. He completed 24-of-35 for 298 yards and one touchdown. He made several key throws to keep drives alive and was a big reason the Tigers converted 10-of-20 on third down — an amazing stat against a defense as strong as Alabama’s. This begs the question: Was this Mettenberger’s breakthrough performance or was it simply a (positive) blip on what will be an inconsistent career? We’ll find out over the next year-and-a-half, and his first test comes on Saturday against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge.
4. Will South Carolina snap its skid vs. Arkansas?
South Carolina has emerged as one of the top programs in the SEC in recent years. Dating back to the start of the 2010 season, the Gamecocks are 16–7 in the league, highlighted by their first-ever SEC East title in 2010. However, there is one thing South Carolina has been unable to accomplish of late — beat Arkansas, or more specifically, be competitive against Arkansas. The Hogs have won three straight in the series, the last two in convincing fashion against very good Carolina teams. Two years ago, Ryan Mallet, Knile Davis & Co. rolled up 443 yards of offense in a 41¬–20 victory in Columbia. Last season, Tyler Wilson and friends outgained the Gamecocks 435-to-207 en route to a 44–28 win in Fayetteville. Now, it’s time for payback. South Carolina is a two-touchdown favorite at home against an Arkansas team that is 4–5 overall and 2–3 in the SEC.
5. Can a bad defense (Tennessee) stop a bad offense (Missouri)?
Tennessee’s historically bad defense is coming off its worst game of the season. The Volunteers gave up an astounding 721 yards of offense to a Troy team that had 381 yards the previous week in a loss to FAU. For the season, the Vols rank last in the league in both yards allowed per game (483.1) and yards allowed per play (6.31). This week, Tennessee meets a struggling Missouri offense that has scored 15 points or less in four of its last five SEC games. James Franklin is back at quarterback for the Tigers, but he threw four interceptions in a 14–7 loss at Florida last week. Injuries have sabotaged Franklin’s first season in the SEC, starting with a shoulder issue in the spring and then continuing with a knee injury suffered against Vanderbilt in early October. Last season, Franklin rushed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns; this year he has netted only 104 yards on the ground and has yet to run for a touchdown. Missouri clearly needs Franklin to be at his best (both running and passing) to succeed, even against a defense as bad as Tennessee’s.
6. Does Georgia have enough weapons at wide receiver to be a factor down the stretch?
Georgia is the national title contender no one is talking about. The Bulldogs are 8–1 overall and ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS standings. The Dawgs, however, have some issues at wide receiver that could hinder their ability to remain in the BCS title chase. Marlon Brown, who shares the team lead in receptions (27) and ranks second in receiving yards (469), was lost for the season with a torn ACL vs. Ole Miss. Earlier this season, Michael Bennett, who had 24 catches and four touchdowns in five games, went down with an ACL injury as well. The Dawgs still have quality at the position — Tavarres King has 27 catches for 551 yards and Malcolm Mitchell has 26 for 358 — but they are lacking in quantity. “We still have some playmakers,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “But Marlon and Michael were just two outstanding football players . … And they actually had a nice physicality to them at that position. We’ll miss that. Other guys are just going to have to step up and get after it.” Among the “other guys” with an opportunity to take on a larger role are junior Rantavious Wooten, who has 12 catches for 154 yards, and Chris Conley, a sophomore who has seven receptions for 84 yards.
7. Can Jonathan Wallace get the job done against an SEC defense?
Auburn true freshman Jonathan Wallace made his first start at quarterback last week and received a passing grade from the coaches for his work in the Tigers’ 42–7 win over New Mexico State. Wallace, who had been used almost exclusively in Wildcat packages earlier in the season, completed 9-of-16 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Surprisingly, he only ran for nine yards on three attempts. This week, the Phenix City, Ala., native will face an SEC defense for the first time as a starting quarterback when Georgia travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium. “It’s going to be a completely different issue,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “The speed and intensity in which they blitz and move around will be completely different.” Wallace played well in relief two weeks ago vs. Texas A&M, completing 6-of-9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns while adding 71 yards on the ground.
8. Can Vanderbilt win again in Oxford?
Much to the dismay of the Rebel faithful, Vanderbilt has controlled this series of late, winning five of the last seven overall, including two straight in Oxford. In 2008, Ole Miss outgained Vanderbilt 385-to-202 yet lost 23–17 due in large part to Jevan Snead’s four interceptions. Two years, ago, one of the worst Vanderbilt teams in recent history (at least statistically) beat Jeremiah Masoli & Co. 28–14 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Ole Miss’ lone win since 2006 came in Nashville in ’09 by a score of 23–7. This Saturday’s game will be the first time since 1967 these two teams have played in November. In 2001, they played on Dec. 1 after their scheduled game was postponed due to the 9/11 attacks.
9. Can Mississippi State stop the bleeding?
Just two weeks ago, Mississippi State was 7–0 and dreaming of a special season. Now, after two losses by a combined score of 76–20, the Bulldogs are 7–2 with a trip to LSU looming. In the past two weeks, MSU has dropped from 48th to 73rd nationally in total offense and from 25th to 50th in total defense. There is no shame in losing decisively at Alabama, but the Bulldogs were alarmingly uncompetitive at home against Texas A&M. The Aggies jumped out to a 24–0 lead at the half and outgained MSU 693-to-310. Mississippi State only ran 57 offensive plays, compared to 97 by Texas A&M. The task this week will be to do something that no Bulldog team has done since 1991 — win in Baton Rouge.
10. Can Florida flex its offensive muscles against UL Lafayette?
It’s hard to find too much fault with a team that concluded its SEC season with a 7–1 record in league play. But the Florida coaching staff has to be a bit concerned with the Gators’ offense. In SEC games, UF ranked 11th in the league in total offense, averaging only 328.8 yards per game. The Gators finished the SEC season with 183 yards against South Carolina (in a lopsided win), 266 against Georgia and 276 against Missouri. They had 325 yards or fewer in five of eight league games. This type of production (or lack thereof) was good enough to go 7–1 in the nation’s most difficult conference, but at some point Florida needs to start scoring points with regularity. This week’s opponent, UL Lafayette, gave up 50 points at home two weeks ago to Arkansas State and 65 points in a Week 3 loss at Oklahoma State. It will be a disappointment if Florida doesn’t score at least 40 points on Saturday.
|Week 11 SEC Predictions||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Texas A&M (+14) at Alabama
|Texas A&M 28-24||Alabama 30-21||Alabama 31-20||Alabama 34-21|
Arkansas (+14) at S. Carolina
|S. Carolina 31-14||S. Carolina 30-24||S. Carolina 34-20||S. Carolina 33-17|
Missouri (+3) at Tennessee
|Tennessee 37-28||Tennessee 31-30||Tennessee 34-27||
ULL (+26.5) at Florida
|Florida 28-10||Florida 24-10||Florida 41-13||
Georgia (-15) at Auburn
|Georgia 35-7||Georgia 34-14||Georgia 38-13||
Miss. State (+14.5) at LSU
|LSU 17-14||LSU 21-14||LSU 27-10||
Vanderbilt (+3) at Ole Miss
|Ole Miss 24-14||Ole Miss 30-27||Vanderbilt 27-24||Vanderbilt 24-20|
We almost had a change at the top in the SEC, but Alabama rallied to beat LSU in Baton Rouge and hold on to the No. 1 spot in the power rankings. LSU dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 with the loss, while Georgia climbs to from No. 3 to No. 2.
Post-Week 10 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron remains No. 1 on the list despite struggling for most of the night vs. LSU. The junior quarterback, however, came through in the clutch, directing the Tide on a five-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to take the lead in the final minutes. McCarron still has not thrown an interception in 204 attempts this season.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel and the Aggies’ offense made a respected Mississippi State defense look helpless in a 38–13 win in Starkville. Manziel completed 30-of-36 passes for 311 yards and added 129 yards rushing to lead the Aggies to their fifth road win of the season.
3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — The true freshman doesn’t have the gaudiest stats, but he is clearly one of the SEC’s elite players. Saturday night, Yeldon scored the biggest touchdown of Alabama’s 2012 season, taking a screen pass from A.J. McCarron 28 yards for the go-ahead score with under one minute remaining in Baton Rouge. He now has 739 yards rushing (on a 7.1-yard average) and 122 yards receiving.
Post-Week 10 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — South Carolina was off on Saturday. Clowney has 40 total tackles, including 15 for a loss with 8.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones had three tackles, including one for a loss in the Bulldogs 37–10 win over Ole Miss. Jones, in only seven games (he missed two with an injury), has 52 total tackles, including 15 for a loss with 8.5 sacks. He also has one interception, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M — The junior defensive end had four tackles and one sack in the Aggies’ 38–13 win at Mississippi State. Moore leads the team with 65 total tackles and leads the SEC in both tackles for a loss (18.0) and sacks (10.5).
Post-Week 10 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — It wasn’t easy, but Saban’s team remained undefeated with a 21–17 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Alabama, the No. 1 team in the nation, is 9–0 overall and 6–0 in the SEC.
2. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators completed their SEC slate with a 7–1 record, the only blemish coming two weeks ago vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. Last season, Florida went 3–5 in the league, its first losing SEC record since 1986.
3. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M — The Aggies have made a smooth transition to their new league under the leadership of Sumlin, who is in his first season as the boss in College Station. Texas A&M is averaging an astounding 550.8 yards of offense in SEC games.
Post-Week 10 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (9–0, 6–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 9 result: Beat LSU 21–17
They gave up 435 total yards — by far the most this season. They lost the turnover battle 2-to-0. Their quarterback completed one of his first seven passes in the second half. But the Alabama Crimson Tide won the game because they made the big plays when it mattered most. Trailing 17–14 with 1:34 to play, AJ McCarron led Alabama on a five-play, 72-yard drive that lasted less than a minute and ended with a 28-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon. McCarron went 3-of-4 on the decisive drive with completions of 18, 15, 11 and 28 yards. He only completed 11 of his other 23 attempts for 93 yards. While the Tide struggled for much of the night in the passing game, their top two tailbacks, Eddie Lacy and Yeldon, combined to rush for 159 yards on 22 carries.
Next week: Texas A&M
2. Georgia (8–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 9 result: Beat Ole Miss 37–10
Georgia is now one win away from clinching its second straight SEC East title after rallying from a 10–0 deficit to beat the much-improved Ole Miss Rebels 37–10. The Bulldogs took the lead for good on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King in the final seconds of the first half and then seized control of the game by scoring touchdowns on drives of 79 yards and 77 yards to open the third quarter. Georgia outgained Ole Miss 533-to-234 thanks in large part to a defense that shut down the Rebels’ running attack. Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott netted 21 yards on 13 carries. The Georgia offense was led by Murray (21-of-28 for 384 with four TDs, no INTs) and tailback Todd Gurley (18 for 117).
Next week: at Auburn
3. Florida (8–1, 7–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 9 result: Beat Missouri 14–7
Florida’s formula for success — defense, turnovers and more defense — isn’t overly exciting, but it produced a 7–1 SEC record in Will Muschamp’s second season in Gainesville. The Gators gained 276 yards and converted only 2-of-13 on third down but won for the seventh time in eight SEC games thanks to a defense that allowed only one touchdown and forced four turnovers. Quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 12-of-23 passes for 106 yards — his fourth SEC game with fewer than 110 yards — and tailback Mike Gillislee was held to under 100 yards rushing (he had 68) for the fourth straight game. Still, the Gators did enough to win, with a 45-yard Driskel-to-Gillislee touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter providing the final margin. The Gators will win the SEC East if Georgia loses at Auburn week.
Next week: UL-Lafayette
4. LSU (7–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 9 result: Lost to Alabama 21–17
There were so many bright spots for LSU, but in the end the final score — Alabama 21, LSU 17 — is all that really matters. Despite rolling up 435 total yards on the nation’s best defense and despite getting by far the best game of quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s career, the Tigers lost to Alabama for the second straight time. Mettenberger, who came into the game completing only 46.2 percent against SEC competition, was 24-of-35 for 298 yards and one touchdown. He made several key throws to keep drives alive and was a big reason the Tigers converted 10-of-20 on third down — an amazing stat against a defense as strong as Alabama’s. LSU is now 3–2 in the SEC and all but eliminated from both the SEC and national title chase.
Next week: Mississippi State
5. South Carolina (7–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 9 result: Bye
South Carolina had the week off to regroup after losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a devastating knee injury. The Gamecocks won’t be heading to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, but they still have two very attainable goals — a 10-win regular season (only has happened twice before) and a six-win SEC season (only once).
Next week: Arkansas
6. Texas A&M (7–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 9 result: Beat Mississippi State 38–13
In a huge swing game in the SEC West, Texas A&M made a big statement, pounding Mississippi State 38–13 with surprising ease in Starkville. The Aggies jumped out to a 21–0 lead early in the second quarter and were never threatened. A&M recorded 693 yards of offense, including 311 through the air against one of the SEC’s most respected pass defenses. Quarterback Johnny Manziel, whose legend grows with each week, completed 30-of-36 for 311 yards and rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts. Ben Malena chipped in with 112 yards for an A&M offense that is averaging 550.8 yards in SEC games.
Next week: at Alabama
7. Mississippi State (7–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 9 result: Lost to Texas A&M 38–13
Just two weeks ago, Mississippi State was 7–0 and dreaming of a special season. Now, after two losses by a combined score of 76–20, the Bulldogs are 7–2 with trips to LSU and improved Ole Miss still on the schedule. MSU was outgained 693-to-310 and has given up 1,107 yards in the past two games. Tyler Russell was decent at quarterback, completing 19-of-30 for 212 yards, but the usually reliable Bulldog running game was limited to 98 yards on 27 attempts. Mississippi State only ran 57 offensive plays, compared to 97 by Texas A&M. “That’s as bad of a performance as I think we’ve had here,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
Next week: at LSU
8. Ole Miss (5–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 9 result: Lost to Georgia 37–10
The Rebels jumped on top of Georgia 10–0 in Athens but were outscored 37–0 over the game’s 45 minutes. Ole Miss had success early on offense, with three of its first four drives going for 50 yards or more. But the Rebels struggled the rest of the way; their final 11 drives went for 20 yards or fewer. The final tally was a season-low 234 yards with only 12 first downs. Tailback Jeff Scott, who had back-to-back 100-yard games against Texas A&M and Auburn, was held to 21 yards and only has 71 yards on 34 carries in the last two games. Ole Miss is still one win away from becoming bowl-eligible, with games remaining Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State.
Next week: Vanderbilt
9. Vanderbilt (5–4, 3–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 9 result: Beat Kentucky 40–0
Vanderbilt won its third straight game — and did so in convincing fashion. The Commodores jumped on Kentucky early, scoring touchdowns on four of five first half possessions and cruised to a 40–0 win in Lexington. Vanderbilt outgained the Cats 447 to 260 and converted 11-of-17 on third down (including 8-of-10 in the first half). The shutout was the first in SEC play for Vanderbilt since blanking Kentucky 6–0 in 1968, and the 40-point margin of victory was the largest in league play for the Dores since beating LSU 48–7 in 1948.
Next week: at Ole Miss
10. Tennessee (4–5, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 9 result: Beat Troy 55–48
The good news: Tennessee gained a school-record 718 yards. The bad news: Tennessee gave up a school-record 721 yards. The bottom line: The Volunteers beat Troy 55–48 in one of the craziest games of the 2012 season. Tyler Bray threw for a school-record 530 yards and five touchdowns and now has 898 yards with nine scores and one pick in his last two games. Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter each caught nine of Bray’s 29 completions, with Patterson gaining 219 yards with one touchdown and Hunter 181 yards with three scores. The big story, however, was a Tennessee defense that gave up 721 yards to a Troy team that gained 381 the previous week in a loss to FAU. “Well, it’s a bad defense,” UT coach Derek Dooley said after the game. “Just didn’t really have an answer for anything.”
Next week: Missouri
11. Arkansas (4–5, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 9 result: Beat Tulsa 19–15
Arkansas kept its bowl hopes alive with a 19–15 come-from-behind win over a Tulsa team that had won seven straight games. The Hogs were led by tailback Dennis Johnson, who gained 109 yards and scored two touchdowns on 22 carries, and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who had had 177 yards on 11 receptions. With at least three games remaining, Hamilton has a single-season school-record 69 catches for 1,077 yards. Arkansas jumped on the Golden Hurricane early and held a 10–0 lead at the end of the first quarter. But Tulsa kept things tight and took a 15–13 lead midway through the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal. After their next two drives stalled, the Hogs reclaimed the lead early in the fourth quarter when Johnson capped a four-pay 76-yard drive with a one-yard run touchdown run up the middle. Arkansas now needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl-eligible. The Hogs play at South Carolina and Mississippi State and host LSU.
Next week: at South Carolina
12. Missouri (4–5, 1–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 9 result: Lost to Florida
Missouri ended its stay in the Big 12 with seven straight non-losing conference seasons but is already guaranteed of a losing record in its first year in the SEC. The Tigers dropped to 1–5 in the league with a 14–7 loss at Florida on Saturday. Missouri outgained the Gators 335-to-276 but was undone by four interceptions tossed by quarterback James Franklin. Making his first start since Oct. 6 (knee injury), Franklin completed 24-of-51 passes for 236 yards but was held to 29 yards rushing on 11 carries. The Missouri offense has a total of 590 yards and 17 points in two SEC road games.
Next week: at Tennessee
13. Auburn (2–7, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 9 result: Beat New Mexico State 42–7
Auburn overcome a slow start — the Tigers only led 7–0 at the half — and buried New Mexico State (which has yet to beat an FBS team this season) at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Making his first career start, quarterback Jonathan Wallace completed 9-of-16 passes for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Tigers did most of their work on the ground, with Tre Mason (152 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (113) both topping the 100-yard mark. Auburn’s final two SEC games are against the two teams who will likely meet in the league title game — Georgia and Alabama.
Next week: Georgia
14. Kentucky (1–9, 0–7 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 9 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 40–0
Kentucky was held to 260 yards of offense in a 40–0 loss at home to Vanderbilt. Quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles, both true freshmen, combined to complete 13-of-35 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cats’ defense was manhandled by a balanced Vanderbilt attack that had 200-plus yards rushing and passing. The Commodores scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions. Kentucky has lost two straight to Vanderbilt (for the first times since the mid-1990s) by a combined score of 78–8.
Next week: Samford
College football’s weekend slate is highlighted by key games in the SEC (Alabama at LSU) and Pac-12 (Oregon at USC). Here’s a look a every game.
No. 33 Washington at No. 67 California
Washington has defeated two ranked teams at home (Stanford and Oregon State) but has lost its three road games (LSU, Oregon and Arizona) by an average of 34.7 points.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU
LSU is 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, but the three league wins have come by a total of nine points. The Tigers rely heavily on their rushing attack, which could be a problem on Saturday night. Alabama leads the nation in total defense and has been especially stout against the run, allowing an average of 57.3 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide will make it very difficult for LSU’s one-dimensional offense to put points on the board.
No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 USC
This game isn’t quite as big in November as it was back in August. Oregon has done its part, winning its first eight games by an average of 34 points. USC, however, has lost two games, at Stanford in Week 3 and at Arizona last Saturday.
No. 31 Oklahoma State at No. 3 Kansas State
Kansas State climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings after Florida lost to Georgia and the Wildcats disposed of Texas Tech 55–24. The Wildcats don’t quite control their own destiny, but they are obviously on the short list of teams that are in position to play in the BCS national title game.
Kansas State 34–30
No. 64 Pittsburgh at No. 4 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense continues to amaze. The Fighting Irish held Oklahoma to a season-low 13 points last week in Norman and have now given up a total of six touchdowns in eight games. Pittsburgh is playing better than it was earlier this season, but Notre Dame is the far superior team.
Notre Dame 27–10
No. 97 Illinois at No. 6 Ohio State
Illinois has scored a total of five touchdowns in its four Big Ten games. Ohio State is averaging 5.4 touchdowns per game in league play. Advantage Ohio State.
Ohio State 44–7
No. 38 Ole Miss at No. 7 Georgia
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs now must beat Ole Miss at home this weekend and Auburn on the road on Nov. 10 to make their second straight trip to the SEC title game.
No. 58 Missouri at No. 8 Florida
Florida’s passing attack has been among the least productive in the SEC all season. When the Gators were winning — which they did in their first seven games — it wasn’t too much of an issue. But now, after they were held to 266 yards in a 17–9 loss to Georgia, it’s fair to ask: Why is Florida’s passing game so anemic?
No. 11 Clemson at No. 48 Duke
Duke has given up an average of 39.7 points and 500 total yards over the last three weeks. Not good — especially with Clemson on deck. The Tigers rank second in the league in both total offense and scoring offense.
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 34 Iowa State
Iowa State is one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the third time in four seasons under Paul Rhoads. If the Clones fail to pick up their sixth win this week, they should be able to win at least one of the final three games — at Texas, at Kansas, West Virginia.
No. 37 Arizona State at No. 13 Oregon State
Oregon State hit its first speed bump last week, losing at Washington 20–17. This week, the Beavers return to Corvallis, where they have given up a total of 20 points in three games.
Oregon State 27–21
No. 14 Texas A&M at No. 16 Mississippi State
This will be a great barometer for both teams. Mississippi State is no longer undefeated, but the Bulldogs are eager to prove they should be considered among the top teams in the SEC. Texas A&M is 6–2 overall and has already won four road games.
Texas A&M 30–24
No. 76 Temple at No. 15 Louisville
Louisville is 8–0 overall and ranked No. 10 in the BCS standings. That’s too high when you consider that the schedule has been soft and each of the Cards’ last six wins has come by 10 points or fewer.
No. 17 Stanford at No. 102 Colorado
Colorado is one of three teams nationally that is giving up more than 500 yards per game and 7.0 yards per play. The other two are Idaho and Army.
No. 30 Texas at No. 18 Texas Tech
Here’s something that we didn’t expect to see back in the summer: Texas is a seven-point underdog to Texas Tech. Texas Tech has no doubt exceeded expectations, but the betting line is a strong statement on the state of Texas football.
Texas Tech 30–27
No. 23 Arizona at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA is 3–2 in the league after its upset at Arizona State. The Bruins have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Pac-12, ranking third in the league in total offense (502.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (33.4 ppg). Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has made some mistakes — four picks in the loss at Cal — but there is no doubt that he has energized a fan base that needed something to get excited about.
No. 21 Nebraska at No. 36 Michigan State
Nebraska took a huge step toward winning the Legends Division title by beating Michigan in Lincoln last week. The Huskers got it done on the defensive end, holding Michigan to 188 total yards and no touchdowns. That’s not good news for Michigan State, which continues to struggle on offense.
No. 114 Texas-San Antonio at No. 22 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron has yet to throw an interception in 319 attempts. Two years ago, as a sophomore, he threw five picks in only 91 attempts.
Louisiana Tech 47–10
No. 70 San Diego State at No. 24 Boise State
San Diego State had two running backs top the 100-yard mark — Adam Muema (143) and Walter Kazee (105) — in its 24–13 win over UNLV. The Aztecs will need to control the line of scrimmage once again to give themselves a chance to win in Boise.
Boise State 30–17
No. 35 TCU at No. 25 West Virginia
TCU’s first season in the Big 12 has been a bit of a disappointment, but the Horned Frogs have had significant personnel issues. They lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock over the summer (drugs) and have dealt with other injury issues at linebacker. Offensively, they have been without tailbacks Ed Wesley (all season), Waymon James (all but two games) and quarterback Casey Pachall (all but four games). It would have been interesting to see this team with all of its pieces.
West Virginia 37–33
No. 26 Michigan at No. 61 Minnesota
Michigan’s offense stagnated after Denard Robinson went down with an elbow injury in Saturday’s loss at Nebraska. Backup Russell Bellomy completed only 3-of-16 for 38 yards after replacing Robinson in the first half. Robinson is expected to start this week.
No. 28 Penn State at No. 69 Purdue
At the end of September, Purdue was 3¬–1 with its only loss by three points at Notre Dame. Now, at the end of October, the Boilermakers are 3–5 and there are rumors that Danny Hope’s job is in jeopardy.
Penn State 31–24
No. 96 Troy at No. 41 Tennessee
Troy, which is 4–4 overall and 3–3 in the Sun Belt, has had its moments this season — the Trojans rolled up 572 yards in a 30–24 defeat at home to Mississippi State in September — but Larry Blakeney’s club is coming off a horrible loss to FAU last weekend.
No. 85 Virginia at No. 42 NC State
Could Virginia be headed toward its first winless ACC season since 1981? It’s possible. The Cavs are 0¬–4 and figure to be an underdog in their final four games — at NC State, Miami, North Carolina, at Virginia Tech.
NC State 35–14
No. 43 Tulsa at No. 56 Arkansas
Tulsa has won seven straight games, but it hasn’t necessarily been easy. Four of the Golden Hurricane’s last five wins have come by seven points or fewer, and the schedule has been far from difficult.
No. 63 Syracuse at No. 44 Cincinnati
After scoring a total of 39 points in a three-game stretch in early October, the Orange have scored 40 and 37 points in their last two games — wins over UConn (40–10) and at South Florida (37–36). Cincinnati returns home, where it is unbeaten, after losing two straight on the road.
No. 89 Kansas at No. 45 Baylor
Baylor has yet to win a Big 12 game in the post-RG3 era. The Bears are 0–4 in the league and are giving up an average of 52.5 points per game. Kansas, too, is winless, though the Jayhawks are coming off their best game of the season, a 21–17 loss at home to Texas.
No. 92 UL-Lafayette at No. 46 ULM
ULM has yet to lose to a non-AQ conference team in 2012. The Warhawks have wins over Tulane and four Sun Belt opponents. UL Lafayette opened its conference slate with wins over Troy and FIU but has lost two straight, at North Texas and vs. Arkansas State by a combined score of 80–50.
No. 49 Vanderbilt at No. 82 Kentucky
Last year, in a 38–8 win over Kentucky in Nashville, the Commodores threw for 207 yards and rushed for 203. The Wildcats, as a team, had 211 total yards. Kentucky is looking to avoid its first two-game losing streak to Vanderbilt since the mid-1990s.
No. 107 Texas State at No. 52 Utah State
Utah State ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense, and that includes two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Utah, Wisconsin) and a game with BYU. This team is legitimately good.
Utah State 37–14
No. 124 UMass at No. 53 Northern Illinois
After making Ohio sweat in a 37–34 loss in Foxboro, UMass has lost its last three games — to Western Michigan, Bowling Green and Vanderbilt — by a combined score of 125–21. This will get ugly early.
Northern Illinois 48–10
No. 111 Akron at No. 53 Kent State
Kent State is rolling. The Golden Flashes picked up their sixth straight win last weekend — and did so in impressive fashion, beating previously unbeaten Rutgers 35–23 on the road. Kent State leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-2.38 per game.
Kent State 41–7
No. 87 SMU at No. 59 UCF
UCF is a bit undervalued nationally. The Knights are 6–2 overall, with losses at Ohio State by 15 points and at home to Missouri by five points. They are 4–0 in Conference USA and have already defeated four of the other five teams in the East.
No. 60 Iowa at No. 74 Indiana
After flirting with victory in recent weeks — the Hoosiers lost three straight by a total of eight points — Indiana broke through and beat Illinois 31–17 on the road last Saturday. IU is 1–3 in the Big Ten but is still in the hunt to represent the Leaders Division in the league title game.
No. 103 Washington State at No. 62 Utah
Utah scored a season-high 49 points in a surprisingly easy 22-point win over Cal last week. Four of the touchdowns came on offense, two on special teams and one on defense.
No. 119 Hawaii at No. 65 Fresno State
Hawaii has lost all of its games vs. FBS opponents — and it hasn’t been close. The Warriors’ “best” loss was by 15 points last week to Colorado State, which is 2–6.
Fresno State 48–13
No. 121 FAU at No. 66 Navy
FAU hasn’t won a road game since beating Western Kentucky 17–16 in Bowling Green in November 2010. Won’t happen this week. Navy has won four straight.
No. 68 Georgia Tech at No. 71 Maryland
It’s tough enough to win games when you have an actual quarterback playing quarterback. It’s really hard when you are forced to play a linebacker at the game’s most important position. Maryland will send out Shawn Petty, an option quarterback in high school, against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech 20–10
No. 73 San Jose State at No. 122 Idaho
San Jose State is very quietly having a really nice season. The Spartans are 6–2 overall and 2–1 in the WAC thanks to a passing attack that averages 328.6 yards per game.
San Jose State 48–0
No. 123 New Mexico State at No. 75 Auburn
Auburn’s struggles have been well-documented, but the Tigers should have little trouble with New Mexico State. The Aggies are 1–7 and have not won since defeating Sacramento State in Week 1. For Auburn, true freshman Jonathan Wallace will be making his first start at quarterback.
No. 84 Connecticut at No. 77 South Florida
Over the last two years, South Florida has been involved in six Big East games that have been decided by three points or less. The Bulls are 0–6 in those games. This won’t be decided by three points or less, and that’s good news for USF.
South Florida 27–14
No. 94 Boston College at No. 78 Wake Forest
Wake Forest is somehow 4–4 despite ranking 112th in the nation in total offense and 82nd in total defense. The Demon Deacons are really struggling to score in ACC games of late, with 14, 16 and 13 in their last three.
Wake Forest 21–20
No. 88 Houston at No. 79 East Carolina
One week after giving up 512 yards rushing in a 56–28 loss at home to Navy, East Carolina must solve a Houston offense that is averaging 340.1 yards passing. The Cougars got off to a rough start but have won four of their last five games.
No. 117 Memphis at No. 80 Marshall
Marshall ranks 119th nationally in scoring defense and has allowed 45 points or more in five of its eight games. Memphis, however, isn’t good enough to take advantage of the Herd’s porous defense. The Tigers have scored 17 points or fewer in five straight games.
No. 81 Arkansas State at No. 99 North Texas
Arkansas State has played its way into the Sun Belt race by winning three straight. The Red Wolves, one of three teams with a 3–1 record in the league, trail ULM by one full game. A-State hosts ULM next Thursday night. Big game.
Arkansas State 37–20
No. 83 Western Michigan at No. 108 Central Michigan
We picked Western Michigan to win the MAC West Division in our preseason magazine. Bad move on our part. The Broncos are 1–4 in the league, with the lone win coming against winless UMass.
Western Michigan 30–20
No. 90 Air Force at No. 115 Army
Air Force is probably ranked a bit too low. The Falcons are 5–3, including a loss in overtime to Navy and a six-point loss at Michigan. The other loss was bad — at UNLV — but that was in mid-September. AFA is 4–1 since that game, highlighted by last week’s 48–31 victory over Nevada.
Air Force 34–21
No. 95 Miami (Ohio) at No. 116 Buffalo
Miami picked up the biggest win of the Don Treadwell era last week, handing previously unbeaten Ohio its first loss of the season. A win this week at Buffalo would set up a huge game on Nov. 10 vs. surging Kent State.
No. 98 New Mexico at No. 106 UNLV
Since beating Air Force 38–35 on Sept. 22, UNLV is 0–5. There have been some close losses — by five to Nevada, by 11 a San Diego State — but Bobby Hauck is going to have to win some games to save his job.
New Mexico 34–30
No. 100 Rice at No. 104 Tulane
Tulane was one of the nation’s worst teams through the first half of the 2012 season, but Curtis Johnson’s club has won two of its last three games and is now 2–2 in C-USA. The Green Wave’s surge has coincided with the return of starting quarterback Ryan Griffin, who has 10 touchdowns and one interception in the last three games.
No. 105 UAB at No. 110 Southern Miss
This is Southern Miss’ best chance to avoid the unthinkable, an 0–12 record. The Golden Eagles have given up 38 points or more in all but two games — not what the school had in mind when it hired Ellis Johnson, a defensive guru, away from South Carolina.
No. 109 FIU at No. 120 South Alabama
FIU’s miserable 2012 season concludes with road games at South Alabama and FAU and a home date with ULM. The Golden Panthers have one win — over Akron in overtime in Week 2 — and are 0–5 in the Sun Belt. They are playing better of late, with three straight losses by eight points or less, but this season has been a colossal disappointment.
No. 118 Colorado State at No. 112 Wyoming
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is back after serving a one-game suspension for his post-game tirade against Air Force’s Troy Calhoun. “Not being able to coach this football team was probably the most-difficult pill I have ever had to swallow,” Christensen said earlier this week.
Last week: 38–18
College football’s Week 10 slate is highlighted by the Alabama-LSU clash in Baton Rouge and Oregon’s visit to USC. The Trojans have played their way out of the national title race with two losses in league play, but this is still a very talented team that is capable of winning the rest of its games.
Week 10 Predictions
Alabama (-10) at LSU
Maybe it’s because Alabama is so good. Or maybe it’s because LSU isn’t quite as formidable as we expected (though the Tigers are ranked fifth in the BCS standings). But this game just doesn’t feel as big as it should. Alabama has raced out to an 8–0 start with an efficient offense and a dominating defense. The Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points and have not led by less than 13 points at any point in the second half. LSU is 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, but the three league wins have come by a total of nine points. The Tigers rely heavily on their rushing attack, which could be a problem on Saturday night. Alabama leads the nation in total defense and has been especially stout against the run, allowing an average of 57.3 yards per game and 1.9 yards per carry. The Crimson Tide will make it very difficult for LSU’s one-dimensional offense to put points on the board.
Oregon (-7.5) at USC
Here’s another game that isn’t quite as big in November as it was back in August. Oregon has done its part, winning its first eight games by an average of 34 points. USC, however, has lost two games, at Stanford in Week 3 and at Arizona last Saturday. The Trojans recorded some gaudy stats in Tucson — Matt Barkley threw for 493 yards and Marqise Lee had 345 receiving yards — but the defense had no answer for Arizona, against the pass (369 yards) or the run (219 yards). Arizona is very good offensively. Oregon is much, much better. The Ducks lead the nation in scoring (53.4 ypg) and are the only team in the country that averages over 300 yards rushing and 200 yards passing.
Texas A&M (-6.5) at Mississippi State
This will be a great barometer for both teams. Mississippi State is no longer undefeated, but the Bulldogs are eager to prove they should be considered among the top teams in the SEC. Texas A&M is 6–2 overall and has already won four road games. Last Saturday, the Aggies rolled up 671 yards in a 63–21 win at Auburn. Johnny Manziel was back to his old playmaking self, throwing for 260 yards and two touchdowns and running for 90 yards and three scores. The key to slowing down A&M — and it’s easier said than done — is keeping Manziel in the pocket and forcing him to make plays in the passing game. The strength of the Mississippi State defense is the secondary; if the Bulldogs’ front seven can stop the run, the onus will be on Manziel to win this game with his arm.
Texas A&M 30–24
Oklahoma State (+9.5) at Kansas State
Kansas State climbed to No. 2 in the BCS standings after Florida lost to Georgia and the Wildcats disposed of Texas Tech 55–24. The Wildcats don’t quite control their own destiny, but they are obviously on the short list of teams that are in position to play in the BCS national title game. The first hurdle to clear is Oklahoma State, which beat TCU 36–14 on Saturday to improve to 5–2 overall and 3–1 in the Big 12. True freshman Wes Lunt, the opening day starter, returned after missing three full games with a knee injury and threw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but Oklahoma State has topped the 600-yard mark four times and leads the nation in total offense (586.1 ypg). K-State is the better team, but the Cats will have to play well to win this game.
Kansas State 34–30
Nebraska (+1.5) at Michigan State
Nebraska took a huge step toward winning the Legends Division title by beating Michigan in Lincoln last week. The Huskers got it done on the defensive end, holding Michigan to 188 total yards and no touchdowns. That’s not good news for Michigan State, which continues to struggle on offense. The Spartans have only topped 330 yards in Big Ten action once this season, in a 31–27 win at Indiana. Last week, they did just enough to beat Wisconsin 16–13 in overtime at Camp Randall Stadium to improve to 2–3 in the league. This team has been about what we expected on defense — the Spartans lead the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense — but the offense has been a disappointment. A team that gives up 15.0 points per game should be better than 5–4.
Ole Miss (+14) at Georgia
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs now must beat Ole Miss at home this weekend and Auburn on the road on Nov. 10 to make their second straight trip to the SEC title game. Ole Miss won’t be heading to the SEC title game, but the Rebels are only one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not bad for a team that went 0–8 in the SEC last season and was outgained by an average of 174.2 yards in league games. Last weekend, the Rebels knocked off Arkansas 30–27 in Fayetteville for their first SEC road win since 2009. Hugh Freeze now has to be in the discussion for SEC Coach of the Year honors.
Texas (+7) at Texas Tech
Here’s something that we didn’t expect to see back in the summer: Texas is a seven-point underdog to Texas Tech. Texas Tech has no doubt exceeded expectations, but the betting line is a strong statement on the state of Texas football. The Longhorns, who gave up 161 points in a three-game stretch in October, avoided complete disaster by scoring in the final minute to beat Kansas 21–17 in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon. Texas’ defense finally played well, but the offense struggled mightily — gaining only 342 yards against a KU defense that was giving up an average of 428.4 yards per game. Texas Tech was manhandled in Manhattan by Kansas State, but the Red Raiders still have to be considered among the most improved teams in the nation. They padded their stats against a very soft non-conference schedule, but it’s still noteworthy that they rank in the top 12 nationally in both total offense and total defense.
Texas Tech 30–27
Arizona at UCLA
What was once considered a forgone conclusion — USC winning the Pac-12 South title — is now very much in doubt. The Trojans have two league losses and still have to play Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. USC’s unexpected struggles have opened the door for either Arizona, Arizona State or UCLA to win the South. Arizona already has three losses, but the Cats have a key head-to-head win over USC and a relatively soft late-season schedule. UCLA is 3–2 in the league after its upset at Arizona State. The Bruins have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Pac-12, ranking third in the league in total offense (502.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (33.4 ppg). Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has made some mistakes — four picks in the loss at Cal — but there is no doubt that he has energized a fanbase that needed something to get excited about.
Virginia Tech (-2.5) at Miami (Fla.) (Thu.)
Virginia Tech and Miami have a combined eight losses, yet the winner of this game likely will be the Coastal Division’s representative in the ACC title game. Duke is still in the race, but the Blue Devils have the most difficult remaining schedule. Virginia Tech hasn’t played since losing 38–17 at Clemson two weeks ago. In their three true road games, the Hokies have given up 35, 48 and 38 points — all in losses. In those three games, they have allowed an average of 242.7 yards rushing. That is very un-Bud Foster-like. Statistically, Miami is in the middle of the pack in the ACC in rushing offense, both overall (seventh, 126.8 ypg) and in league games (sixth, 135.0 ypg). The Canes do boast one of the league’s top running backs in Duke Johnson, but the true freshman is splitting time with Mike James and has not gotten more than 14 carries in any game.
Miami (Fla.) 24–21
TCU (+7) at West Virginia
The two new members of the Big 12 get together for a game that isn’t quite as important as most had expected when the schedules were releasted. West Virginia climbed into the top five of the national polls after winning its first five games, but the Mountaineers have been exposed on defense over the last month. In Big 12 action, WVU is allowing 564.8 yards per game and a staggering 7.7 yards per play. It doesn’t matter how good you are on offense — and the Mountaineers are very good — competing for a conference title is nearly impossible with defensive numbers that bad. TCU’s first season in the Big 12 has been a bit of a disappointment, but the Horned Frogs have had significant personnel issues. They lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock over the summer (drugs) and have dealt with other injury issues at linebacker. Offensively, they have been without tailbacks Ed Wesley (all season), Waymon James (all but two games) and quarterback Casey Pachall (all but four games). It would have been interesting to see this team with all of its pieces.
West Virginia 37–33
Last week: 4–6 overall (3–7 against the spread)
Season: 58–32 overall (46–44 against the spread)
LSU hasn’t quite been as formidable as we originally thought, but Alabama’s trip to Baton Rouge to battle the Tigers is still the biggest game in the SEC this season. There’s also an intriguing battle in Starkville, as Mississippi State hosts Texas A&M in a game featuring teams jockeying for position in the SEC West. Georgia is two wins away from wrapping up the SEC East title. This week, the Bulldogs host the improved Ole Miss Rebels.
Other Week 10 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 10:
1. Does LSU have enough on offense to beat Alabama?
At first glance, LSU’s offensive numbers are just fine. The Tigers are averaging 385.8 yards and 31.0 points per game — not great, but good enough for a team with an elite defense. Those numbers however, have been padded by a soft non-conference schedule. Against SEC competition, LSU is averaging only 16.3 points (11th in the league) and 318.3 yards (11th) per game. The biggest problem has been an anemic passing attack that has struggled to throw the ball down the field. In SEC games, LSU is last in the league in completions of 10 yards or more (18), 20 yards or more (eight), 30 yards or more (two) … you get the point. Junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger ranks 12th in the SEC in passer rating in league games and is averaging only 5.4 yards per attempt. This production (or lack thereof) has been sufficient to win all but one game this season, but it’s hard to envision LSU beating Alabama without the threat of the forward pass. Last year, the Tigers won the regular-season game vs. the Tide 9–6 despite throwing for only 91 yards, but that LSU team had a quarterback (Jordan Jefferson) who was a threat to run. Jeferson’s mobility added a different dimension to the LSU offense — something that the ’12 Tigers don’t have with Mettenberger under center.
2. Can Alabama continue its dominance away from home?
Alabama has emerged as the premier program in the nation over the last few years due in large part to its ability to win on the road. Nick Saban’s club has won 11 straight games away from home, dating back to a 24–21 setback at LSU in November 2010. And the Crimson Tide aren’t just winning — they are dominating. The average margin of victory in these games — three of which have been on a neutral site — is a staggering 29.9 points per game. The closest victory was by 16 points over Penn State in September 2011; the most decisive was a 52–0 shutout vs. Arkansas this season. Keep these stats in mind when you are sitting down to watch Alabama take on LSU in vaunted Death Valley on Saturday night.
3. Can Georgia handle prosperity?
It’s amazing what one win can do for the morale of a football team and its fan base. Georgia opened the month of October with a disheartening 35–7 loss at South Carolina. After a week off, the Bulldogs struggled through a surprisingly close 29–24 win at Kentucky. A season that began with such promise was on the verge of implosion. That all changed, however, with a 17–9 victory in Jacksonville against the previously unbeaten Gators. Georgia suddenly finds itself in control of the SEC East, needing only wins vs. Ole Miss this weekend and at Auburn on Nov. 10 to return to Atlanta for the second straight season. And if the Dawgs somehow find a way to win the SEC title game, a trip to the BCS National Championship Game likely would be next on the docket. But first things first: Georgia must take care of business this week against a very capable Ole Miss team that has won consecutive SEC games for the first time since 2009.
4. Is Hugh Freeze the SEC Coach of the Year?
Ole Miss is only one win away from becoming bowl-eligible. Not bad for a team that went 0–8 in the SEC last season and was outgained by an average of 174.2 yards in league games. Last weekend, the Rebels knocked off Arkansas 30–27 in Fayetteville for their first SEC road win since 2009. The man responsible for the turnaround is Hugh Freeze, who last season led Arkansas State to its only Sun Belt title in school history. Freeze has instilled confidence in a team that had no reason to be confident heading into the 2012 season. “Hugh Freeze has got them going there at Ole Miss,” said Georgia’s Mark Richt, whose Bulldogs host Ole Miss on Saturday. “He’s doing a great job. They’re really excited right now, and they’re winning. They’ve already scored more points, had more first downs, had more touchdowns, more passing yards and just about every stat that you could have. They’ve had more of that now in eight games than they had all of last season, so it’s very impressive.” I realize it’s not too hard to find a coach praising another coach. But this time it’s all true.
5. Is James Franklin healthy enough to give Missouri a chance in Gainesville?
Missouri has struggled in its first season in the SEC. But we haven’t seen the Tigers at their best for much of the 2012 season. Injuries at quarterback (James Franklin), running back (Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy) and on the offensive line have limited Missouri on offense. Last week, the Tigers broke threw with their first SEC win, pulling away from Kentucky in the second half en route to a 33–10 win. Franklin wasn’t expected to play but was forced into action after Corbin Berkstresser through interceptions on MU’s first two possessions of the third quarter. Franklin clearly wasn’t 100 percent — he attempted only nine passes and did not have any carries — but his presence in the lineup made a difference. The question this week is whether or not his knee is healthy enough to give the Tigers a chance to score some points against an outstanding Florida defense. With Franklin at his best — serving as a threat with both his arm and his legs — the Tigers have a chance to keep it close in Gainesville. If not, it could be another long day for Mizzou, which lost its only previous SEC road games by 21 points (at South Carolina).
6. How alarmed should Florida be about its passing game?
Florida’s passing attack has been among the least productive in the league all season. When the Gators were winning — which they did in their first seven games — it wasn’t too much of an issue. But now, after they were held to 266 yards in a 17–9 loss to Georgia, it’s fair to ask: Why is Florida’s passing game so anemic? The Gators rank last in the SEC and 114th in the nation in passing offense, averaging only 143.6 yards per game. From an efficiency standpoint, they aren’t awful — the Gators rank ninth in the SEC in passing efficiency and have only thrown three interceptions — but a team with as much talent as Florida should be more adept at throwing the ball down the field. It’s unfathomable that a program like Florida only has 15 pass plays for 20 yards or more eight games into the season.
7. Can Tennessee and Auburn avoid disaster?
These are not good times at Tennessee and Auburn. In Knoxville, Volunteer fans are dealing with an 0–5 start in the SEC for the third straight season. At Auburn, the Tiger faithful are trying to understand how their team can be so bad just two years after winning the national championship. As bad as things seem now, imagine the scene at these two SEC strongholds if either team loses this week. Tennessee hosts Troy, which is 4–4 overall and 3–3 in the Sun Belt. The Trojans have had their moments this season — they rolled up 572 yards in a 30–24 defeat at home to Mississippi State in September — but they are coming off a horrible loss to FAU last weekend. Tennessee is favored by 18.5 points. Risk of loss for the Vols: Low. New Mexico State, which has losses to Idaho and Texas-San Antonio on its résumé, is arguably one of the worst five teams in the nation. Auburn is favored by 22.5 points. Risk of loss: Very low.
8. Can Jordan & Jordan keep it going for Vanderbilt?
The level of competition was no doubt a factor, but Jordan Rodgers had his most efficient game at Vanderbilt last week, completing 17-of-21 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Dores’ 49–7 win over UMass. The senior quarterback is now completing 58.9 percent of his passes and has only thrown one pick in the last six games. The recipient of many of Rodgers’ targets has been junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews. Last week, Matthews caught 10 passes for 112 yards. It was the seventh 100-yard game of Matthews’ career, but the first that did not come vs. an SEC opponent. A junior from Madison, Ala., Matthews has 775 yards receiving with at least four games remaining. Barring an injury, he figures to be Vanderbilt’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Earl Bennett had 1,146 yards in 2006.
9. Can Mississippi State get back on track?
Mississippi State’s undefeated run came to an end with a resounding 38–7 loss at Alabama on Saturday night. No great surprise. Even the most optimistic MSU fan could not have expected the Bulldogs to win in Tuscaloosa. Now, with that loss behind them, the Dogs must focus on a difficult stretch run. There’s a decent chance State might only be favored one more time this season — at home vs. Arkansas on Nov. 17. This week, Texas A&M comes to town with the league’s most explosive offense. The Aggies opened as a slight 2.5-point favorite but the line quickly jumped to six points. A loss on Saturday would send MSU to Baton Rouge on Nov. 10 riding a two-game losing streak. State coach Dan Mullen is well aware that his team faces a challenging final month of the season. “You always define yourself in November,” he said earlier this week. “To me, it is a thing of how you are going to close out the season. We put ourselves in a great position for the month of November right now. Now, you have to see what separates a good season from a great season to a championship season.”
10. Will Texas A&M run the table on the road?
The wins haven’t exactly come against marquee opponents, but give credit to Texas A&M: The Aggies are 4–0 on the road this season with a redshirt freshman starting at quarterback. Kevin Sumlin’s team beat SMU 48–3 in Week 3; rallied to beat Ole Miss in Oxford 30–27; held on for dear life to edge Louisiana Tech 59–57; and then rolled past Auburn with shocking ease, 63–21, last Saturday. This week, the Aggies take their traveling road show to Starkville to face Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 7–1 overall and 3–1 in the SEC, yet A&M is a 6.5-point favorite. If the Aggies survive Starkville, then the fun really starts: On Nov. 10, they head to Tuscaloosa to take on the mighty Crimson Tide. Good luck.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Missouri (+16) at Florida
|Florida 35-10||Florida 27-14||
Texas A&M (-6.5) at Miss. State
|Texas A&M 28-21||Texas A&M 31-24||
Texas A&M 34-31
Texas A&M 30–24
Vanderbilt (-7) at Kentucky
|Vanderbilt 28-14||Vanderbilt 30-13||
Troy (+18.5) at Tennessee
|Tennessee 42-21||Tennessee 38-14||
|Tulsa (+7.5) at Arkansas||Tulsa 38-35||Arkansas 34-27||
N.M. State (+22.5) at Auburn
|Auburn 17-7||Auburn 24-21||
|Ole Miss (+14) at Georgia||Ole Miss 35-31||Georgia 34-21||
|Alabama (-9.5) at LSU||Alabama 35-14||Alabama 20-10||
Related College Football Content
There was a big shakeup in the SEC East with Georgia seizing control of the division race after beating rival Florida in Jacksonville. The Dawgs have jumped up to No. 3 in the weekly power rankings. Ole Miss made a big move, as well, from No. 11 to No. 8 after beating Arkansas in Fayetteville on a last-second field goal.
Post-Week 9 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama — McCarron continues to lead the nation in passing efficiency after completing 16-of-23 for 208 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in the Crimson Tide’s 38–7 win over Mississippi State.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel was back to his old play-making self in the Aggies’ 63–21 win at Auburn. Johnny Football threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 90 yards and three scores to lead an offense that rolled up over 300 yards rushing and passing.
3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — The true freshman is emerging as Alabama’s top rushing threat. Yeldon ran for 84 yards on only 10 carries in the win over Mississippi State and now has 357 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games. He is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, the most by an SEC back with more than 40 carries.
Post-Week 9 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — Clowney delivered the play of the game in South Carolina’s 38–35 win over Tennessee. The Vols drove to the South Carolina 19-yard line trailing by only three points, but Clowney forced a fumble at the 1:08 mark that basically ended the game. In nine games, Clowney has 50 tackles (15.0 for a loss) and 8.5 sacks.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones made plays all over the field in the Bulldogs’ upset over Florida. The junior linebacker recorded 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. He helped secure the win by knocking the ball out of Jordan Reed’s hands at the 5-yard line with 2:05 remaining and Georgia holding an eight-point lead. Sanders Cummings recovered the ball in the end zone to secure the win.
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — The junior middle linebacker has 75 tackles and three sacks for the season. LSU was off last season.
Post-Week 9 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — Alabama is 8–0 overall and 5–0 in the SEC after its 38–7 win over Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points and have not led by less than 13 points at any point in the second half.
2. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss — After going winless in the SEC last season, Ole Miss is now 2–2 in the league after winning at Arkansas 30–27 on Saturday. The Rebels are one of the most improved teams in the nation.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators suffered their first loss of the season last weekend, but this is still a much-improved team. The Gators have been outstanding on defense and efficient (until Saturday) on offense. Muschamp has quieted the critics who questioned whether he was the right man for the job.
Post-Week 9 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (8–0, 5–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 8 result: Beat Mississippi State 38–7
Alabama handed Mississippi State its first loss of the season — and did so in convincing fashion. The Tide relied on a balanced attack (as usual) and won the turnover battle (as usual) en route to its 12th straight win. AJ McCarron completed 16-of-23 passes for 208 yards with two touchdowns, and has now thrown 177 passes this season without an interception. T.J. Yeldon was the leading rusher for Bama, averaging 8.4 yards on his 10 attempts. Alabama still has not given up more than 14 points in any game this season.
Next week: at LSU
2. LSU (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 8 result: Bye
LSU has a chance to play its way back into the national title race with No. 1 Alabama coming to town on Saturday night. The Tigers, who have won their three SEC games by a total of nine points, will need to make plays in the passing game to beat Alabama. You can’t beat the Tide simply by running the ball.
Next week: Alabama
3. Georgia (7–1, 5–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 8 result: Beat Florida 17–9
Georgia seized control of the SEC East with a surprising 17–9 win over Florida in Jacksonville. It wasn’t always aesthetically pleasing — the two teams combined for nine turnovers and 24 penalties — but it was a huge win for a Georgia team that has failed to play up to its potential for most of the 2012 season. Freshman Todd Gurley was the only offensive standout for either team, rushing for 118 yards on 27 carries. Quarterback Aaron Murray, who was so sharp in the win at Kentucky, completed only 50 percent of his passes and was intercepted three times. It was his first game with more than one pick this season.
Next week: Ole Miss
4. Florida (7–1, 6–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 8 result: Lost to Georgia 17–9
The Gators’ SEC East title hopes took a huge hit with a 17-9 loss to Georgia. Florida needs to beat Missouri next week and hope Georgia loses to either Ole Miss or Auburn. The Gators had committed a total of four turnovers in their first seven games but lost four fumbles and threw two interceptions on Saturday. Florida entered the game averaging 212.7 yards rushing but netted only 81 on 41 attempts. Jeff Driskel threw for more than 100 yards for the first time in four games, but he completed only 53.8 percent of his passes and was picked off twice. More important, he was not much a threat running the ball — something that has been a huge part of the Florida attack.
Next week: Missouri
5. South Carolina (7–2, 5–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 8 result: Beat Tennessee 38–35
South Carolina has its first-ever three-game winning streak against Tennessee, but the story in Columbia was the horrific injury to tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior, who tore his ACL last season, suffered a devastating knee injury while planting his right leg in the second quarter. Both teams were visibly shaken by the injury, but play resumed and South Carolina held on for the three-point win in what turned out to be a highly entertaining second half. The Gamecock defense gave up a season-high 472 yards but made the key plays down the stretch to preserve the victory. Connor Shaw threw for a career-high 356 yards and a season-high three touchdowns to lead the Carolina offense.
Next week: Bye
6. Mississippi State (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 8 result: Lost to Alabama 38–7
Mississippi State hoped to be the first team to make Alabama sweat in the second half. Didn’t happen. The Bulldogs fell behind 14–0 after one quarter and 24–0 at the half on their way to their first loss of the season. MSU netted only 47 yards rushing against the ferocious Alabama defense. LaDarius Perkins, who had three straight 100-yard games prior to Saturday, netted only 38 yards on 15 carries. The highly touted State secondary had trouble slowing down the Alabama passing attack. Tide quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 208 yards (and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Next week: Texas A&M
7. Texas A&M (6–2, 3–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 8 result: Beat Auburn 63–21
The Aggies’ offense got back on track against the struggling Auburn Tigers. Texas A&M rolled up 671 yards of offense — including over 300 on the ground and through the air — while picking up its fourth road win of the season. Johnny Manziel, as usual, led the way with 260 yards passing and two touchdowns and added 90 yards rushing and three scores on the ground. Texas A&M is now averaging 522.4 yards in its five SEC games, the most in the league vs. conference opponents.
Next week: at Mississippi State
8. Ole Miss (5–3, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 8 result: Beat Arkansas 30–27
We knew Ole Miss was vastly improved. Now the Rebels have a quality win to prove it. Bryson Rose drilled a 31-yard field goal as time expired to give the Rebels their first SEC road win since 2009. Ole Miss is now one win away from bowl-eligibility under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, who now has to be in the discussion for SEC Coach of the Year honors. Bo Wallace completed 29-of-37 for 278 yards and one touchdown. Wallace, a junior college transfer, led Ole Miss on an eight-play, 61-yard drive in two minutes to set up the game-winning field goal.
Next week: at Georgia
9. Tennessee (3–5, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 8 result: Lost to South Carolina 38–35
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley summed it up best after his team dropped 0–5 in the SEC for the third straight season. “It’s the same old song and dance at the SEC level,” said Dooley, who has yet to beat a ranked team in his two-plus years at Tennessee. There were plenty of positives for the Vols — Tyler Bray threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns, and Zach Rogers had 107 yards receiving and three scores — but in the end they simply couldn’t make the big play when it mattered most. Trailing by three points, UT drove deep into South Carolina territory in the final minutes, but Bray lost a fumble after being hit by Jadeveon Clowney. “We had a chance to win, and they made a great play,” Dooley said.
Next week: Troy
10. Vanderbilt (4–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 8 result: Beat UMass 49–7
The Commodores overcame a slow start — they led only 7–0 late in the second quarter — but dominated winless UMass in the second half to even their record at 4–4. Vanderbilt broke the game open with four touchdowns in a six-minute span in the third quarter. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers was sharp, completing 17-of-21 for 217 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Dores were forced to go most of the game without Zac Stacy, who went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Stacy is expected to return next week vs. Kentucky.
Next week: at Kentucky
11. Arkansas (3–5, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 8 result: Lost to Ole Miss 30–27
Was Arkansas turning the corner after winning two straight? Or did the Hogs just take advantage of a soft spot in the schedule with wins over Auburn and Kentucky? I think it’s safe to say it was the latter. The Hogs’ modest winning streak was snapped with a 30–27 loss at home to surging Ole Miss. Arkansas outgained the Rebs 464 to 355 but was unable to get key stops late in the game. After the Razorbacks tied the game on a Dennis Johnson 5-yard run with 2:44 remaining, Ole Miss drove 61 yards for the game-winning field goal. Arkansas, now 3–5, must win three of its final four games to become bowl-eligible.
Next week: Tulsa
12. Missouri (4–4, 1–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 8 result: Beat Kentucky 33–10
It took longer than most Missouri fans would have liked, but the Tigers picked up their first SEC win on Saturday. Mizzou scored 33 points despite gaining only 273 yard thanks in part to an opportunistic offense that converted all three of Kentucky’s lost fumbles into touchdowns. James Franklin, who missed most of the Vanderbilt game and all of the Alabama game with a knee injury, was forced into action in the second half after redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser was intercepted on consecutive possessions. Franklin threw for only 16 yards and did not have a rushing attempt in his five possessions. Kendial Lawrence had his first 100-yard game vs. an SEC foe, gaining 108 yards on 23 carries.
Next week: at Florida
13. Auburn (1–7, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 8 result: Lost to Texas A&M 63–21
The Tigers hit a new low on Saturday night, losing by 42 points at home to SEC newcomer Texas A&M. The Aggies rolled up 671 yards of offense — the most ever given up any Auburn team — and scored seven touchdowns on the eight possessions played by starting quarterback Johnny Manziel. Clint Moseley got the start at quarterback for the third straight week but only attempted one pass. Kiehl Frazier and Jonthan Wallace both saw significant action in relief. Wallace, a true freshman who has been used almost exclusively as a Wildcat quarterback, completed 6-of-9 for 122 yards and two touchdowns and added 71 yards rushing.
Next week: New Mexico State
14. Kentucky (1–8, 0–6 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 8 result: Lost to Missouri 33–10
Kentucky’s offense took a step back on Saturday after a relatively strong showing in a 29–24 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. The Wildcats gained only 179 total yards — their fifth SEC game with under 250 — and were shut out in the second half in a 33–10 loss at Missouri. Kentucky had three drives in the first quarter that went for 50 yards or more but were completely shut down in the second half. The Cats’ longest drive in the final two quarters went for 20 yards; their other six possessions either ended with a punt after three plays or a turnover. True freshman quarterback Patrick Towles returned after missing two games with an ankle injury. He completed 1-of-4 for two yards.
Next week: Vanderbilt
College football’s Week 9 is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC (Florida vs. Georgia, Mississippi State at Alabama) and a meeting of two storied programs in Norman, Okla., as Notre Dame takes on Oklahoma. There is a key clash in the Big East, as Cincinnati makes the short trip to Louisville on Friday night. And USC heads to Tucson for a tricky game with the Wildcats.
No. 39 Cincinnati at No. 17 Louisville
This key Big East clash lost some of its intrigue when Cincinnati suffered a 29–23 defeat at Toledo on Saturday. That loss didn’t hurt the Bearcats’ standing in the Big East, but this is no longer a battle of undefeated and nationally ranked teams.
No. 57 Nevada at No. 94 Air Force
Nevada has tumbled down the Athlon Sports rankings in recent week. The Wolf Pack had some close wins against bad teams — Wyoming (35–28 OT) and UNLV (42–37) — then lost at home last week, in overtime, to San Diego State.
No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
How good is Alabama? Well, Nick Saban’s club is favored by more than three touchdowns against an undefeated Mississippi State team that is ranked 11th in the BCS standings. The Crimson Tide, ranked No. 1 in the nation, have won their seven games by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points. Can Mississippi State be the first team to make Bama sweat? The guess here is yes — to a degree.
No. 101 Colorado at No. 2 Oregon
Colorado has given up 101 points in its last two games, losses to Arizona State and USC. The Buffs rank 119th in the nation in scoring defense (42.6 ppg). This will not be remotely competitive.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 10 Georgia (Jacksonville)
There’s plenty at stake when Florida and Georgia get together for their annual tussle in Jacksonville. The Gators, already 7–0 in the league, can wrap up the SEC East with a win. Georgia can’t clinch anything this weekend, but the Bulldogs — who still have games with Ole Miss and Auburn — would control their own destiny with a victory.
No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Bill Snyder is the obvious choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year at this point, but Tommy Tuberville has to be No. 2 on the list. The Red Raiders, who went 2–7 in the league last season, are 6–1 overall and 3–1 in the Big 12. And there are some quality wins on the résumé — at Iowa State, vs. West Virginia, at TCU.
Kansas State 35–27
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Notre Dame expects Everett Golson to be back at quarterback after missing the BYU game with a concussion. He is far from polished throwing the ball, but he is a dynamic playmaker who can create scoring opportunities with his legs. The Irish will have to limit their turnovers and score touchdowns — not field goals — in the red zone.
No. 7 Ohio State at No. 23 Penn State
Penn State has won five straight games after opening the season with losses to Ohio and Virginia. The Nittany Lions are getting it done with a surprisingly potent offense that is led by the surprisingly good Matt McGloin. A year ago, McGloin failed to throw for more than 220 yards in any game and had eight touchdowns and five interceptions in 231 attempts. This season, McGloin has topped the 220-yard mark in five of seven games and has 14 TDs and two INTs in 259 attempts.
Penn State 33–28
No. 36 Tennessee at No. 9 South Carolina
In his Monday press conference, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley said Tyler Bray will be on a short leash in Columbia. “If he’s loose with the football, he’s coming out of the game and we’re going to play Justin (Worley),” Dooley said. “I told him that.” In four SEC games, Bray is completing just over 50 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. That simply isn’t good enough for a guy with as much talent as Bray.
South Carolina 31–20
No. 11 USC at No. 29 Arizona
USC has quietly won four in a row since its damaging Week 3 loss at Stanford. The Trojans, 6–1 overall and ranked No. 10 in the latest BCS standings, can play their way back into the national title mix with wins this week at Arizona and next week at home vs. Oregon.
No. 12 Oregon State at No. 40 Washington
Oregon State survived for two weeks without Sean Mannion in the lineup, beating BYU 42–24 and Utah 21–7. Now, Mannion is back, and the Beavers are ready to light up the scoreboard against a Washington team that has given up 41 points or more in three of its five games vs. AQ conference opponents.
Oregon State 37-21
No. 47 Duke at No. 13 Florida State
Duke can relax after picking up that elusive sixth win and becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils are very much in the mix for the Coastal Division title, but their remaining schedule — starting with Saturday’s trip to FSU — is very difficult.
Florida State 38–20
No. 71 Kent State at No. 18 Rutgers
Former Rutgers assistant Darrell Hazell brings his Kent State Golden Flashes to town for homecoming. This will not, however, be easy for the Scarlet Knights. Kent State is 7–1 overall and has won three games on the road.
No. 19 Michigan at No. 27 Nebraska
Michigan snapped its four-game losing streak to Michigan State despite failing to score a touchdown. The Wolverines’ defense, which struggled in the first two weeks of the season, has given up an average of 230.6 yards in the last five games. Greg Mattison and his group will have their hands full against Nebraska. Holding the Huskers to 28 points should be the goal.
No. 102 Washington State at No. 20 Stanford
After playing two straight overtime games — beating Arizona and losing to Notre Dame — Stanford enjoyed a relatively stress-free 21–3 win over rival Cal in the Big Game. The Cardinal dominated this game at the line of scrimmage, outgaining Cal on the ground 252 to 3. Expect another easy win this week.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 73 Auburn
Auburn’s offense is bad. How bad? Well, the Tigers rank 119th in the nation in total yards (276.7) and have averaged only 229.0 yards against SEC opponents. Last week, in a 17–13 loss at Vanderbilt, Auburn managed 212 total yards. The week before, against Ole Miss, they had 213 yards.
Texas A&M 30–17
No. 24 Louisiana Tech at No. 122 New Mexico State
This is a colossal mismatch in the WAC. Louisiana Tech has scored 53 touchdowns in seven games vs. FCS competition. New Mexico State has scored 14 in six games.
Louisiana Tech 55–7
No. 45 Michigan State at No. 22 Wisconsin
After scoring less than 30 points in four of their first five games, the Badgers have scored 31, 38 and 38 points in their last three. Their three highest yardage totals of the season have also come in the last three games — 427 vs. Illinois, 645 vs. Purdue and 443 vs. Minnesota. Michigan State’s defense will be a bit tougher to penetrate, but the Badgers will score enough to win.
No. 26 UCLA at No. 33 Arizona State
I’m surprised the spread is so high between these seemingly evenly matched teams. UCLA is 5–2 and has only played one bad game, a 43–17 loss at California. The Bruins’ other loss was by seven points at home to undefeated Oregon State, and they have a nice win over Nebraska on their résumé.
No. 28 Texas at No. 97 Kansas
Charlie Weis has turned his offense over to Michael Cummings, a redshirt freshman who will get the start over Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. He will be facing a Texas defense that has given up 48 points or more in its last three games.
No. 32 TCU at No. 30 Oklahoma State
TCU is known more for its defense, but the Horned Frogs are averaging 491.8 yards vs. Big 12 opponents this season. That’s more than West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech (and four other teams). The Frogs’ defense, however, is giving up 387.8 yards in league play. Stopping Oklahoma State, which welcomes quarterback Wes Lunt back to the lineup, will be a challenge.
Oklahoma State 34–27
No. 31 Boise State at No. 112 Wyoming
The schedule hasn’t been too taxing, but Boise State has given up 17 points or less in all but one game this season. The Broncos lead the MWC in total defense and scoring defense.
Boise State 30–10
No. 34 Ohio at No. 109 Miami (Ohio)
Ohio, which is No. 4 in the BCS standings, has been outgained by an average of 64 yards in its three MAC games. This team does not deserve to be ranked.
No. 35 Toledo at No. 116 Buffalo
Toledo continues to roll. The Rockets improved to 7–1 last week with a win over previously unbeaten Cincinnati. Dating back to last season, Toledo has won 15 of its last 17 games. It will be 16 of 18 very soon.
Toledo 37, Buffalo 8
No. 37 NC State at No. 50 North Carolina
Larry Fedora will be a popular man in Chapel Hill if he can do something that Butch Davis failed to do in his time at North Carolina — beat NC State. The Wolfpack have won five straight in this series, four with Davis in charge and one with interim boss Everett Withers running the show. The streak is about to end.
North Carolina 28–27
No. 64 Iowa at No. 38 Northwestern
It’s been a strange season in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have one of the worst losses by any AQ conference team in the nation this season — at home to Central Michigan. Yet, they’ve also won at Michigan State. Last week, Iowa was dominated at home by Penn State. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 24–0 lead at the half and cruised to a 38–14 victory.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 41 Iowa State
How bad has Baylor been defensively in Big 12 games? Well, the Bears are giving up 613.7 points per game and a staggering 7.36 yards per play vs. conference foes.
Iowa State 47–41
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 43 ULM
South Alabama is fresh off its first win over an FBS team, a 37–34 double-overtime thriller at Florida Atlantic. The Jaguars’ winning streak will end at one.
No. 123 UMass at No. 48 Vanderbilt
UMass gained a total of 118 yards last week in a 24–0 loss at Bowling Green. The Minutemen had 33 yards passing on 34 attempts. It is very hard to be that bad.
No. 56 Ole Miss at No. 49 Arkansas
There is no doubt that Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the SEC. However, it must be noted that the Rebs have yet to beat a good team. Their four wins have come against Central Arkansas, UTEP (2–6), Tulane (1–6) and Auburn (1–6). So can this team take the next step and defeat a quality opponent?
No. 52 Utah State at No. 114 Texas-San Antonio
The Aggies bounced back from a 6–3 loss to BYU by beating San Jose State and New Mexico State by a combined score of 90–34. The beatings of WAC brethren will continue.
Utah State 44–13
No. 53 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Western Michigan
Northern Illinois and Toledo, both 4–0 in the league, are heading for a huge showdown in mid-November in DeKalb. The Huskies have won seven straight and are playing very well on both sides of the ball.
Northern Illinois 34–20
No. 54 Western Kentucky at No. 106 FIU
Western Kentucky blew a 28–7 second quarter lead last week and eventually lost in overtime to ULM 43–42. It was the Toppers’ first Sun Belt conference defeat since losing to Arkansas State last October.
Western Kentucky 24–21
No. 55 BYU at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Statistically, BYU has one of the top rushing defenses in the nation. But the Cougars were gashed last week by Notre Dame, which had two backs top 100 yards and ended up with 270 yards on 43 carries in a 17–14 Irish win. Georgia Tech’s option attack will provide another stiff test for BYU.
Georgia Tech 28–20
No. 59 Purdue at No. 65 Minnesota
These two teams are a combined 0–6 in the Big Ten. Minnesota is on its third starting quarterback of the season. Philip Nelson, a true freshman who enrolled at Minnesota last January, made his first start last week at Wisconsin. He completed 13-of-24 for 149 yards with two TDs and two interceptions in a 38–13 loss.
No. 60 California at No. 66 Utah
Losing 21–3 at home to your arch rival isn’t recommended for a coach (Jeff Tedford) whose job security is an issue. The Golden Bears are 3–5 overall and 2–3 in the league. They really need to pick up a win in Salt Lake City.
No. 77 Kentucky at No. 61 Missouri
Beating Kentucky this week is of paramount importance because it’s the last time Mizzou will be favored against an SEC foe. With trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M looming, Gary Pinkel’s club could be staring at an 0–8 record in its maiden voyage through the league if it somehow fails to beat Kentucky.
No. 62 UCF at No. 80 Marshall
Marshall has quietly put together one of the nation’s top offenses — at least statistically. The Thundering Herd rank second in passing offense (390.0 ypg), fourth in total offense (568.4 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (43.1 ppg). That’s the good part. The bad? Marshall is giving upover 40 points per game.
No. 63 Maryland at No. 98 Boston College
Maryland lost its second quarterback to a torn ACL this season when Perry Hills went down last week against NC State. The Terps will now turn to true freshman Caleb Rowe or third-year sophomore Devin Burns.
Boston College 21–20
No. 67 Syracuse at No. 75 South Florida
South Florida’s disappointing 2012 season took another painful turn last week when the Bulls lost a fourth quarter lead to nationally ranked Louisville. USF is now 2–5 overall and 0–3 in the Big East. Syracuse played its most complete game of the season last week in a 40–10 win over UConn. The Orange, however, are 0–2 on the road in 2012 and have lost five straight on the road dating back to last season.
South Florida 24–20
No. 74 Temple at No. 68 Pittsburgh
Temple surprised the league by winning its first two games in its first season back in the Big East. Then, the Owls jumped on Rutgers last week and led 10–0 at the half. The fun stopped there, however. The Scarlet Knights stormed back and coasted to a 35–10 victory. Pittsburgh is 0–3 in the Big East, but the Panthers have already played two of the league’s best three teams, Cincinnati and Rutgers.
No. 69 Fresno State at No. 95 New Mexico
New Mexico, which has switched to an option offense under new coach Bob Davie, is the only team in the nation that has not completed a pass that has gone for 40 yards or more. The Lobos do, however, have seven rushing plays of 40 yards or more, which ranks second nationally.
Fresno State 31–23
No. 103 UNLV at No. 70 San Diego State
San Diego State had its biggest win of the year last week, rallying to beat Nevada 39–38 in overtime. With Ryan Katz out with an injury (and lost for the season), Adam Dingwell stepped in and threw for 177 yards with three touchdowns and no picks.
San Diego State 30–14
No. 72 Ball State at No. 115 Army
Rich Ellerson’s fourth season at Army isn’t going well. The Black Knights are 1–6 (though the one win came vs. Boston College) and all but one of their losses has been by 10 points or more. Ball State should roll.
Ball State 44–20
No. 87 Navy at No. 78 East Carolina
Navy has won three straight, the last two with true freshman Keenan Reynolds starting at quarterback. East Carolina is 4–1 in C-USA but will have a tough time winning its division. The Pirates trail UCF by one game in the loss column and lost to the Knights 40–20 earlier this month.
East Carolina 34–31
No. 104 Texas State at No. 79 San Jose State
Assuming San Jose State takes care of business this weekend, Mike MacIntyre can claim back-to-back wins over Larry Coker (won a national title at Miami) and Dennis Franchione (former coach at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M).
San Jose State 44–17
No. 83 Troy at No. 124 FAU
FAU has lost six straight games since edging Wagner 7–3 in the opener. The latest loss was troubling — 37–34 at FBS newcomer South Alabama. The Carl Pelini era is off to a rough start.
No. 96 North Texas at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee played well in Starkville for a half last week before being overwhelmed by Mississippi State in the final two quarters. The Blue Raiders miss Bennie Cunningham (torn ACL), but this is still a good offense.
Middle Tennessee 34–27
No. 88 Indiana at No. 89 Illinois
Indiana has lost its last three games (vs. Michigan State, Ohio State and Navy) by a total of eight points. Illinois has lost its last four games (Louisiana Tech, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan) by a total of 118 points.
No. 117 Memphis at No. 90 SMU
One week after losing to previously winless Tulane 27–26, SMU beat Houston 72–42 (thanks to nine Cougar turnovers). Go figure.
No. 99 UTEP at No. 92 Houston
Just when it appeared that Houston was getting its act together, the Cougars turn the ball over nine times and give up 72 points to SMU. When this team takes care of the ball — which isn’t often — it is capable of scoring points.
No. 113 Eastern Michigan at No. 93 Bowling Green
Bowling Green gave up a total of 118 yards in a 24–0 win at UMass last week. The Falcons have not allowed more than 12 points in a game since losing at Virginia Tech 37–0 in Week 4.
Bowling Green 27–12
No. 100 UAB at No. 110 Tulane
Tulane is showing improvement under first-year coach Curtis Johnson. The Green Wave broke through with their first win two weeks ago against SMU and then lost at UTEP 24–20 last week. Beating UAB, however, will be tough. The Blazers are 1–6 but have played relatively well against a tough schedule.
No. 108 Southern Miss at No. 105 Rice
Is it possible that Southern Miss, a program that has enjoyed 18 straight winning seasons, could go winless in 2012? The Golden Eagles have five games remaining: at Rice, UAB, at SMU, UTEP, at Memphis. My guess is that USM finds a way to win at least one game.
No. 111 Akron at No. 107 Central Michigan
Terry Bowden is still looking for his first win vs. an FBS opponent in his first season as the boss at Akron. Central Michigan has lost four straight since its stunning win at Iowa.
Central Michigan 21–20
No. 118 Hawaii at No. 120 Colorado State
These two programs have enjoyed some pockets of big-time success over the past two decades. Now, however, they are among the two worst teams in the nation.
Colorado State 24–16
Last week: 44–11
The de facto SEC East title game between Florida and Georgia in Jacksonville highlights the Week 9 schedule in the SEC. There is also a big game in the SEC West as a pair of 7–0 teams, Alabama and Mississippi State, battle in Tuscaloosa. There’s also an intriguing game in Fayetteville. Ole Miss is vastly improved, but are the Rebels good enough to beat Arkansas, which has won two straight, at Razorback Stadium?
Other Week 9 Previews and Predictions
SEC’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 9
1. Can Mississippi State make Alabama sweat?
It’s safe to say that Alabama hasn’t played under duress at any point this season. Bama’s seven wins have come by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points. The Crimson Tide have only trailed once — by one point to Ole Miss for 15 seconds — and they have never led by less than 13 points at any time in the second half. So what happens if Nick Saban’s club is forced to sweat? Will this team, which has operated with such efficiency so far this season, show signs of weakness? It’s doubtful, but Mississippi State would sure love to find out. The Bulldogs are 7–0 overall and 3–0 in the SEC yet head to Tuscaloosa as a 23-point underdog. “Everyone on their roster is a 4- or 5-star prospect,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said earlier this week. “They get those guys in position to make plays and have a real physical team. They don’t make many mistakes and do not turn the ball over. … It should be a great challenge for our guys as we will have to play our best game of the year.”
2. Can AJ McCarron play his way into the Heisman Trophy race?
Kansas State’s Collin Klein is the clear favorite, for now, in the evolving race for the Heisman Trophy. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is also getting significant buzz. But we can’t forget about AJ McCarron, the starting quarterback on the nation’s No. 1 team. McCarron’s raw numbers won’t wow you — he ranks 64th in the nation in passing yards per game (210.9) and tied for 12th in touchdown passes (16) — but he leads the nation in passing efficiency thanks to his 68.9 completion percentage and 16-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio. The nation is now starting to realize what most savvy SEC fans have known since the middle of last season — McCarron is far more than the “game-manager” of the powerful Alabama offense. He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the game.
3. Can Tyler Bray play well against a good team?
Tyler Bray is regarded as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC. That talent, however, hasn’t translated to success against the better teams in the league. Bray, a strong-armed junior, has feasted on inferior competition throughout his career. This season, in three games vs. non-conference opponents, Bray has a quarterback rating of 183.4 (third in the league) and has averaged 348.0 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and one interception. In league play, however, those numbers plummet. His quarterback rating vs. SEC foes is 106.3 (11th in the league), and he has averaged 217.5 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. For his career, he has nine games with at least 300 yards passing. Only two were against SEC foes, Ole Miss and Kentucky in 2010. Bray is too talented, and he has too many weapons — including two likely first-round draft picks at wide receiver — to struggle so much against quality competition.
4. Can South Carolina regain its focus?
Two weeks ago, South Carolina fans were dreaming of a national title. Now, after losses at LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase. Steve Spurrier’s challenge is to keep his team engaged for the stretch run, which begins this week with a visit from Tennessee. The Volunteers are struggling but have more than enough talent, especially on offense, to hang with Carolina in Columbia. “They’re going to come in here and throw it around probably as well as anybody we’ve played,” Spurrier said earlier this week. “They’ve got a good running game also. They've made yards against everybody they’ve played.” The Gamecocks will be seeking their third straight win against Tennessee. Since joining the SEC in 1991, Carolina has yet to win three in a row against any of its chief rivals in the SEC East — Tennessee, Florida and Georgia.
5. Can Ole Miss beat a good team?
There is no doubt that Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the league. The Rebels have made significant progress on both sides of the ball under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Through seven games last year, Ole Miss ranked 116th in the nation in total offense (268.7 ypg) and 110th in total defense (442.1 ypg). This year, they rank 38th in offense (440.7 ypg) and 40th in defense (356.0 ypg). That’s impressive improvement. However, it must be noted that the Rebs have yet to beat a good team. Their four wins have come against Central Arkansas, UTEP (2–6), Tulane (1–6) and Auburn (1–6). So can this team take the next step and defeat a quality opponent? (And yes, I am considering Arkansas, at home, to be a quality opponent.)
6. Can Georgia’s defense bounce back?
Thanks in part to South Carolina’s recent slide, Georgia controls its own destiny in the SEC East. The Dawgs’ biggest hurdle is this week against Florida in Jacksonville. After that, they host Ole Miss and travel to Auburn, games in which they will be the heavy favorite. That all sounds good, but is this Georgia team good enough on defense to take advantage of the situation? Last year, in the second season of Todd Grantham’s 3–4 scheme, the Bulldogs fielded one of the elite defenses in the nation. They ranked fifth in total defense (277.2 ypg) and 23rd in scoring defense (20.6 ppg). With 10 starters back, expectations were high for this unit in 2012. But through seven games, Georgia ranks 47th nationally in total defense (367.4 ypg) and 49th in scoring defense (24.1 ppg). Over their last three games, the Dawgs have given up a total of 105 points — yet still managed to win two of those games. Last week, in a too-close-for-comfort win against Kentucky, Georgia gave up 206 yards rushing to a UK offense that had combined to run for 150 yards in its previous two games. That’s not a good sign with Florida up next. The Gators are far from elite on offense, but they do run the ball effectively, utilizing both the tailback (Mike Gillislee) and the quarterback (Jeff Driskel). Georgia has the weapons to beat Florida; it’s up to the defense to do its part.
7. What will Auburn do at quarterback?
Breaking news: Auburn’s offense is bad. How bad? Well, the Tigers rank 119th in the nation in total yards (276.7) and have averaged only 229.0 yards against SEC opponents. Last week, in a 17–13 loss at Vanderbilt, Auburn managed 212 total yards. The week before, against Ole Miss, they had 213 yards. It’s no secret that the primary area of concern has been the quarterback position. Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, who have taken the majority of the snaps, have a combined three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Moseley, who replaced Frazier as the starter prior to the Ole Miss game, has decent stats (38-of-59 for 373 yards in two games), but the offense has three total touchdowns since he was elevated to the No. 1 position. Don’t be surprised if Jonathan Wallace takes on a larger role in the coming weeks. A true freshman who has seen action in the past five games in the Wildcat package, Wallace is a dynamic athlete who might be able to ignite the Auburn attack. Last week, he completed his first career pass, a quick out that went for 11 yards. The Tigers clearly aren’t threatening defenses with their downfield passing game; it might be time to lean on Wallace and tailbacks Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb.
8. Will Missouri win its first SEC game?
Missouri’s quest for its first SEC win should come to an end this Saturday with Kentucky coming to town. The Tigers likely will be without quarterback James Franklin for one more week, but they are still nearly a two touchdown favorite to beat UK. Missouri’s 0–4 start in its new league shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Sure, losing to Vanderbilt wasn’t exactly what the Tiger faithful had in mind, but the three other losses have been against Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Beating Kentucky this week is of paramount importance because it’s the last time Mizzou will be favored against an SEC foe. With trips to Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M looming, Gary Pinkel’s club could be staring at an 0–8 record in its maiden voyage through the league if it somehow fails to beat Kentucky.
9. Will Patrick Towles return for Kentucky?
Kentucky’s disappointing 2012 season received a jolt of electricity when Patrick Towles made his collegiate debut in the first quarter against Mississippi State on Oct. 6. Towles, a true freshman from Fort Thomas, Ky., drove the Cats 80 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown in his first drive. His presence in the lineup energized Commonwealth Stadium, giving the Wildcat faithful a reason to get excited. The fun didn’t last long. Towles was sidelined in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain that was feared, at the time, to be potentially season-ending. Towles, however, returned to practice this week and will play this week at Missouri — assuming he is able to go through all the necessary drills this week. The plan, if Towles is able to go, is to play both quarterbacks — Towles and fellow true freshman Jalen Whitlow. Senior Morgan Newton, who went 1-of-6 for four yards against Georgia last week, is also available.
10. Can Florida keep winning without a downfield passing attack?
Florida is one of the surprise teams in the nation in 2012. The Gators are well-positioned to compete for a national title just one year after stumbling through the school’s first losing SEC season since 1986. Will Muschamp’s team is getting it done with its defense and running game. At some point this season, however, the Gators must prove they can make plays in the passing game. This isn’t to say they can’t do it — they just haven’t done it yet. Consider the following: Florida ranks last in the SEC in passing plays of 10 yards or more (35) and last in passing plays of 20 yards or more (13). In their last three games, the Gators have completed only two passes that went for 20 yards or more — a 39-yarder to tight end Jordan Reed vs. South Carolina and a 21-yarder to Quinton Dunbar vs. Vanderbilt. This limited offensive attack has served Florida well to this point, but can this team win a national championship without the threat of a deep ball? Stay tuned.
|SEC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Kentucky (+13.5) at Missouri
Tennessee (+14) at S. Carolina
|S. Carolina 35-21||
South Carolina 34-20
S. Carolina 37-20
|S. Carolina 31-20|
|Ole Miss (+5) at Arkansas||Arkansas 28-14||
|Florida (-6.5) at Georgia||Florida 27-13||
Texas A&M (-14) at Auburn
|Texas A&M 38-7||
Texas A&M 45-17
Texas A&M 34-17
|Texas A&M 30-17|
UMass (+33) at Vanderbilt
Mississippi St. (-23.5) at Alabama
You’ve heard the cliché “Big time players make big-time plays in big-time games.” That’s true. But sometimes mediocre players make big-time plays in big-time games.
Here’s a list of 10 unlikely World Series heroes.
Kurt Bevacqua, San Diego Padres, 1984
A career journeyman who batted .200 with one home run and nine RBIs the during the 1984 season, Bevacqua had his finest moment as a major leaguer in the ‘84 World Series. With the Padres trailing 3–2 in the fifth inning of Game 2, Bevacqua drilled a 3-run home run off Dan Petry of the Tigers to give his team a 5–3 lead that would stand — and would be San Diego’s only win of the Series. Bevacqua hit .412 with two home runs and four RBIs in 17 at bats in the 1984 World Series, and he will forever be known for his clutch long ball in Game 2.
Donn Clendenon, New York Mets, 1969
The Mets acquired Clendenon from the Montreal Expos on June 15 to play some first base and provide a veteran presence. He did that — and more. Appearing in four games (of a five-series), Clendenon hit .357 with three home runs and four RBIs en route to earning MVP honors for the Amazin’ Mets. His three home runs set a record for a five-game series that was matched by Ryan Howard of the Phillies in 2008. Clendenon retired in 1972 after an 11-year career that included stops in Pittsburgh, Montreal, New York and St. Louis.
Brian Doyle, New York Yankees, 1984
He only had 199 career at bats in four major league seasons, but Doyle will always be remembered by every Yankee fan for his heroics in the ’78 Series. Filling in for injured second baseman Willie Randolph, Doyle hit .438 with seven hits and four runs scored to help the Yankees to their second straight World Series crown. Doyle retired in 1981 after one season with the Oakland A’s. He hit .161 in the big leagues.
David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals, 2011
Freese was a part-timer in his second full season in the big leagues when the 2011 postseason began. He was a St. Louis legend and a World Series MVP by the time it ended. Freese came up big so many times in the memorable seven-game series, but will be best remembered for his unbelievably clutch play in Game 6. First, with the Cardinals facing elimination down by one run in the bottom of the ninth, Freese tied the game with a two-out, two-strike triple to right field. Two innings later, Freese opened up the bottom of the 11th with a home run that forced a Game 7. A native of the St. Louis area who grew up a Cardinals fan, Freese hit .348 with seven RBIs and four runs scored in the ’11 World Series.
Billy Hatcher, Cincinnati Reds, 1990
Hatcher enjoyed a solid 12-year career with seven different teams, but he never hit higher than .296 or more than 11 home runs in a single season. He picked a good time to get hot, however. Hatcher set two World Series records — highest batting average (.750) and most consecutive hits (seven) — to power the Reds past the heavily favored Oakland A’s in a four-game sweep. Hatcher hit four doubles, scored six runs and had two RBIs in the only World Series appearance of his career.
Jim Leyritz, New York Yankees, 1996
The up-and-coming Yankees were searching for their first World Series title in 18 years. But it didn’t look promising. The Braves, already up two games to one in the series, held a 6–0 lead heading into the sixth inning of Game 4. The Yanks chipped away with three runs in the top of the sixth and then tied the game in the eighth when Leyritz, a backup catcher, hit a 3-run pinch-hit blast over the left field wall. The Yankees went on to win the game in the 10th inning and then wrapped up the World Series title with wins in Game 5 and Game 6, both by one run.
Edgar Renteria, Florida Marlins, 1997
Renteria went on to have a brilliant 16-year career, but in 1997 the Colombian-born shortstop was in his second season in the bigs. The Marlins and Indians traded wins through the first six games of the series, setting up a Game 7 for the ages. The Marlins tied the score with a run in the bottom of the ninth and then captured their first World Series title in the bottom of the 11th when Renteria hit a single up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs. It was the ninth hit of the series for Renteria, who went on to hit .333 in 16 World Series games in his career.
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008
Ruiz was a part-time catcher who hit .219 with four home runs for the Phillies in 2008. His bat came alive in the World Series, however. Ruiz hit .375 with one home run and three RBIs to help the Phillies get past the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game series. Ruiz did the most damage in the Phils’ win in Game 3. First, he gave his team the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, then he delivered the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth, a walk-off infield hit that scored Eric Bruntlett.
Gene Tenace, Oakland A’s, 1972
Tenace was the ultimate utility man for the A’s in 1972, appearing in 82 games at five different positions. But in the World Series, Tenace was thrust into a prominent role due to an injury to starting right fielder Reggie Jackson. Tenace delivered — in a big way. He earned World Series MVP honors after hitting .348 with four home runs (after hitting only five during the regular season) and driving in nine runs (no other player on his team had more than one RBI). Tenace was a regular on Oakland’s next two championship teams — though he only hit a combined .178 in the 1973 and ‘74 World Series — but was just a part-timer who stepped up when it mattered most in 1972.
Tony Womack, Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001
The 2001 World Series is remembered by most for Mariano Rivera’s blown save in Game 7, but Diamondback fans and will never forget Womack’s role in the comeback victory. With the D-Backs trailing 2–1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Womack smacked a game-tying double to right field. Two batters later, Luis Gonzalez hit a soft line drive past a drawn-in infield to give the Diamondbacks the Game 7 victory. Womack, who played 13 seasons in the bigs, hit .250 with three RBIs in the 2001 series.
Alabama and Florida cemented their status as the top two teams in the league. The Crimson Tide cruised past Tennessee in Knoxville, while the Gators rolled past South Carolina with ease in Gainesville. On the other end of the SEC food chain, Auburn dropped to 0–5 in the league with a 17-13 loss at Vanderbilt.
Post-Week 8 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. A.J. McCarron, Alabama — The nation is now starting to realize that McCarron is more than the “game-manager” of the powerful Alabama offense. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency thanks to his 68.9 completion percentage and 16-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio.
2. Eddie Lacy/T.J. Yeldon, Alabama — Yes, it’s a cop out to have two guys listed for the No. 2 spot for Offensive Player of the Year honors, but Lacy and Yeldon have both been terrific sharing the role of featured back in the Alabama attack. Lacy leads the team in rushing (570 yards) and rushing touchdowns (seven); Yeldon isn’t far behind (565 yards and six TDs) and has a better yards-per-carry average (6.8 to 5.8).
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel struggled a bit in A&M’s loss to LSU last weekend, but his body of work is still outstanding. He is second in the SEC in rushing (100.4 ypg) and has thrown for 1,956 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Manziel will have to put up some big numbers against a quality SEC defense to remain in the hunt for Player of the Year honors.
Post-Week 8 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — South Carolina lost at Florida 44–11, but the Gamecocks’ defense only gave up 183 total yards. Clowney had five tackles, including two for a loss, and now has a team-high 14 tackles for a loss (including 7.5 sacks).
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — Jones did not play in Georgia’s win vs. Kentucky due to an injured ankle. In five games, the outside linebacker has 36 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss (with 5.5 sacks).
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — Minter continued his outstanding season with 12 tackles, two quarterback hurries and an interception in the Tigers’ 24¬–19 win at Texas A&M. Minter, a junior middle linebacker, has 75 tackles and three sacks for the season.
Post-Week 8 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators improved to 7–0 overall and 6–0 in the SEC with a 44–11 win over South Carolina. Last year, Florida won seven games for the entire season.
2. Nick Saban, Alabama — Alabama is a team without a weakness. The defense, which had to replace several key contributors from last season, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense.
3. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State — Much has been made about the Bulldogs’ relatively soft schedule (and rightfully so), but credit Mullen and Mississippi State for taking care of business — and doing so in impressive fashion. State is 7–0 and heads to Tuscaloosa this weekend for an enormous showdown with the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Post-Week 8 SEC Power Rankings
1. Alabama (7–0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 7 result: Beat Tennessee 44-13
Oregon, Florida and Kansas State have all looked very good this season, but Alabama is still the nation’s finest team. The Crimson Tide pounded Tennessee 44–13 in Knoxville with a balanced offensive attack (307 yards passing, 231 rushing) and a dominating defense that held the Vols to a season-low 281 total yards. AJ McCarron was nearly flawless at quarterback, completing 17-of-22 for 307 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy combined to run for 209 yards on 33 carries. Alabama’s seven wins have come by an average of 32.7 points, and each victory has been by at least 19 points.
Next week: Mississippi State
2. Florida (7–0, 6–0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 7 result: Beat South Carolina 44–11
Who needs yards? Not Florida. The Gators put up 44 points despite gaining only 183 total yards in a statement win over SEC East rival South Carolina in Gainesville. Florida took advantage of four Gamecock turnovers to improve to 6–0 in the SEC for the first time since 2009. The Gators had two scoring drives of two yards or less in the first half— one set up by a Connor Shaw fumble (on the first play of the game) and the other by a fumble by Ace Sanders on a kick-off return. The Florida defense, which has given up 20 points or less in every game, surrendered only 191 yards and did not allow a touchdown. Next week, Florida can wrap up the SEC East with a win over Georgia in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Georgia
3. LSU (7–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 7 result: Beat Texas A&M 24–19
LSU proved that an elite defense can stop one of the nation’s most explosive offenses. Texas A&M did pick up 410 total yards — the most by any team vs. LSU this season — but the Aggies committed five turnovers and were held to 19 points, their lowest total since a 20–17 season-opening loss to Florida. The Tigers trailed 12–0 midway through the second quarter but scored the next 24 points to seize control. LSU ran the ball well — Jeremy Hill led the way with 127 yards on 18 carries — but Zach Mettenberger continues to struggle at quarterback. The junior completed 11-of-29 passes for 97 yards, which equates to a dismal 3.3 yards per attempt.
Next week: Bye
4. South Carolina (6–2, 4–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 7 result: Lost to Florida 44–11
Two weeks ago, South Carolina fans were dreaming of a national title. Now, after losses at LSU and Florida, the Gamecocks are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase. Carolina quickly fell behind 7–0 thanks to a Connor Shaw fumble on the first play of the game. It didn’t get any better. The Gamecocks committed three more turnovers, two of which led to Florida TD drives of 11 yards or fewer. Shaw was ineffective at quarterback — he completed 9-of-20 for 72 yards — and was benched in the second half in favor of Dylan Thompson. “It was embarrassing for us — very embarrassing to lose,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after the game. “We’ve got to reevaluate a lot of our personnel and get players out there who really want to play for South Carolina. Two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought this. We had a bad one today. LSU was bad (last week). This one was worse. We’ve got to regroup somehow.”
Next week: Tennessee
5. Georgia (6–1, 4–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 7 result: Beat Kentucky 29–24
A win is a win — especially on the road in the SEC — but Mark Richt can’t be too pleased with his team’s play in the 29–24 victory in Lexington. Quarterback Aaron Murray was outstanding, completing 30-of-38 for 427 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Not much else went well for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s three top tailbacks combined for only 93 yards on 25 carries against a Kentucky team that entered the game ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing defense. And the Georgia defense gave up 206 yards rushing to a UK offense that combined to run for 150 yards in its previous two games. Now for the positives: Georgia can move into the driver’s seat in the SEC East with a win next week vs. Florida in Jacksonville.
Next week: vs. Florida
6. Mississippi State (7–0, 3–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 7 result: Beat Middle Tennessee State 45–3
It was a struggle for a half, but Mississippi State scored 35 unanswered points in the final two quarters to beat a solid Middle Tennessee team 45–3 in Starkville. Quarterback Tyler Russell continues to shine for the Bulldogs. He completed 17-of-21 passes for 191 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the last three games, Russell has completed 65 percent of his attempts with seven touchdowns and no picks. Junior tailback LaDarius Perkins chipped in with 125 yards rushing on 20 carries; he has topped the 100-yard mark four times in the last five games. Now, the 7–0 Bulldogs head to Tuscaloosa in one of the biggest games in school history.
Next week: at Alabama
7. Texas A&M (5–2, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 7 result: Lost to LSU 24–19
The Aggies did a lot of good things against an elite opponent, but you can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel threw for 276 yards — that was the good news. The bad news? He threw three interceptions and was held to a season low 27 yards rushing. Manziel did not throw a pick in his first four games but has been intercepted six times in the last three games. The Texas A&M defense, which had allowed an average of 531.3 yards in its previous three games, held LSU to 316 yards, including less than 100 through the air.
Next week: at Auburn
8. Tennessee (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 7 result: Lost to Alabama 44–13
Tennessee needed its best players to play well to make No. 1 Alabama sweat. It didn’t happen. Quarterback Tyler Bray completed only 13-of-27 passes for 184 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had only 25 yards from scrimmage on three offensive touches. Justin Hunter had a nice game (four catches for 70 yards), but it wasn’t nearly enough. Tennessee was outgained 539 to 282 en route to its 11th loss in the past 12 SEC games. The Vols’ schedule eases up considerably after next week’s trip to South Carolina, but will a run of victories against non-top-25 teams be enough to save Derek Dooley’s job?
Next week: at South Carolina
9. Vanderbilt (3–4, 2–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 7 result: Beat Auburn 17–14
Vanderbilt outgained Auburn 376 to 224 yet needed a late defensive stand to secure the 17–14 win in Nashville. Tailback Zac Stacy led the Commodores’ offense with 163 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Stacy, a senior from Birmingham who was not recruited by Auburn, is now Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher with 2,670 career yards. The Commodores’ defense, now ranked No. 27 in the nation, did not allow a drive longer than 52 yards and only gave up one touchdown. Vanderbilt has scored 19 points or less in all five SEC games but is 2–3 in league play.
Next week: UMass
10. Arkansas (3–4, 2–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 7 Result: Bye
The Razorbacks appear to be playing better of late, but their two recent SEC wins have come against the two worst teams in the league — Auburn and Kentucky. The Hogs host improved Ole Miss and Tulsa (currently 7–1) in the next weeks before a tough three-game stretch that includes road trips to South Carolina and Mississippi State and a home date with LSU.
Next week: Ole Miss
11. Ole Miss (4–3, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 7 result: Bye
Ole Miss needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible, but the Rebels’ remaining schedule is very difficult — road games at Arkansas, Georgia and LSU and home games vs. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. Not sure there are two wins in that group.
Next week: at Arkansas
12. Missouri (3–4, 0–4 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 7 result: Bye
The Tigers have a great opportunity to pick up their first SEC win with Kentucky coming to town next week. Missouri expects to have quarterback James Franklin back in the lineup.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (1–6, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 7 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 17–13
Auburn’s nightmare season took another bad turn Saturday afternoon. The Tigers dropped to 0–5 in the SEC with a four-point loss at Vanderbilt. Auburn managed only 212 yards of offense and now has 216 yards or fewer in four of its five league games. Clint Moseley got his second start of the season at quarterback and completed 14-of-20 for 98 yards. Jonathan Wallace also saw time, but the Wildcat specialist had a net of minus-5 yards rushing on three carries. Auburn announced before the game that tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is out for the season with a hip injury.
Next week: Texas A&M
14. Kentucky (1–7, 0–5 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 7 result: Lost to Georgia 29–24
It was still a loss, but the Wildcats played arguably their finest game of the 2012 season. Leaning on a surprisingly effective running game, Kentucky jumped on Georgia early and hung with the Bulldogs until the final minutes of the game. The Cats’ top two tailbacks, Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders, combined to rush for 159 yards on 30 carries to lead a UK ground attack that netted 206 yards. Georgia, meanwhile, managed only 77 yards on the ground, but was bailed out by an outstanding performance from quarterback Aaron Murray (427 yards, four TDs). Kentucky’s 24 points were a season-high vs. an AQ conference opponent.
Next week: at Missouri
College football’s Week 8 action features several key matchups in the SEC (as usual), a pivotal Big 12 game in Morgantown a battle for supremacy in the state of Michigan.
No. 77 Connecticut at No. 67 Syracuse
Four of the eight teams in the Big East do not have a loss in league play. Connecticut and Syracuse are not in that group. The Huskies are 0–2 after losing at home to Temple last week. The Orange are 1–1 with a win over Pittsburgh and a loss at Rutgers.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 35 Tennessee
The Volunteers are 0–3 in the SEC for the third time in Derek Dooley’s three seasons as the head coach. There is a very good chance UT will be 0–4 in league play for the third time in three years after Alabama’s visit to Neyland Stadium Saturday night.
No. 52 BYU at No. 3 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense has now gone four straight games without giving up a touchdown — although Stanford came very, very close to crossing the goal line in overtime last Saturday. It won’t be a surprise if the streak reaches five games. BYU ranks 78th in the nation in scoring (25.6 ppg).
Notre Dame 24-10
No. 9 South Carolina at No. 4 Florida
It’s stop No. 3 for South Carolina on what has to be the most difficult three-game stretch that any team in the nation will face in 2012. The Gamecocks split the first two games, beating Georgia at home and losing last Saturday at LSU. Now it’s off to Gainesville in a game that will go a long way in determining the SEC East champion.
No. 5 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia
Heisman voters will be watching this game with interest. WVU’s Geno Smith and K-State’s Collin Klein are strong favorites to be among the finalists.
West Virginia 34-30
No. 66 Purdue at No. 6 Ohio State
Urban Meyer put out an APB for “tough guys” after the Buckeyes gave up 49 points in a too-close-for-comfort win over Indiana last week. There are no issues with the Ohio State offense; Braxton Miller & Co. have scored a total of 115 points in the past two weeks and are averaging just over 40 points for the season.
Ohio State 41–20
No. 7 LSU at No. 22 Texas A&M
Good pitching usually stops good hitting. We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon if the LSU defense can slow down what has been the SEC’s most explosive offense. Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football.
No. 94 Kansas at No. 8 Oklahoma
The OU offense has come alive after losing at home to Kansas State. The Sooners have totaled 1,057 yards and 104 points in wins over Texas Tech and Texas. Kansas continues to struggle; the Jayhawks are one of two AQ conference teams (Boston College is the other) in the nation without a win over an FBS opponent.
No. 10 Georgia at No. 82 Kentucky
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play.
No. 99 Colorado at No. 11 USC
Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (20.8 ppg) and scoring defense (41.3 ppg). That is not a good combination.
No. 12 Florida State at No. 48 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes’ offense is slumping. After scoring 38 points or more in four of their first five games, the Canes have scored a total of 17 in the past two.
Florida State 41-24
No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Clemson
Here’s a troubling stat if you are a Clemson fan: The Tigers are allowing an average of 7.6 yards per play in ACC games, the worst in the league by a considerable amount. That needs to improve down the stretch.
No. 60 Utah at No. 15 Oregon State
The Beavers continue to be the biggest surprise in the nation. Last week, backup quarterback Cody Vaz stepped in and threw for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a 42–24 win at BYU.
Oregon State 30-13
No. 75 South Florida at No. 16 Louisville
South Florida is the only team in the Big East that has given up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing. The Bulls rank seventh in the league in total defense and have allowed 93 plays of at least 10 yards. Not good.
No. 17 Rutgers at No. 65 Temple
Temple handed Rutgers some of its most disheartening losses in school history in the late 1990s early 2000s. Some bad Temple teams won four straight over some bad Rutgers teams, the worst of which was a 48–14 loss at home in 2000. Those were not fun times for the Scarlet Knights.
No. 47 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan
Michigan is 4–2, but both losses came away from home vs. top-five teams (Alabama and Notre Dame). The Wolverines have won their two Big Ten games by a combined score of 99–13. This is a solid Michigan team that is better than its ranking (No. 23 AP, No. 25 coaches). The Wolverines will snap their five-game losing streak to State — and do so in convincing fashion.
No. 84 Middle Tennessee at No. 19 Mississippi State
Mississippi State fans are looking forward to a likely showdown at Alabama in two weeks between a pair of 7–0 teams. But first the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee club that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
Mississippi State 34-20
No. 20 Stanford at No. 50 California
For only the second time ever — and the first time since 1892 — the Big Game will not be played in November or December. Stanford must bounce back from an emotional (and controversial) overtime loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. Close games are nothing new to this team; five of the Cardinal’s six games have been decided by seven points or less.
No. 21 Cincinnati at No. 63 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been daunting, but Cincinnati has been quite impressive on offense in 2012. The Bearcats are averaging 6.8 yards per play, which ranks ninth in the nation. That number likely will go up after playing Toledo.
No. 24 Texas Tech at No. 26 TCU
Last October, Texas Tech stunned the college football world by knocking off Oklahoma, ranked No. 3 at the time, 41–38 in Norman. The next week the Red Raiders lost at home to Iowa State 41–7. Now, after beating previously unbeaten West Virginia 49–14, Tech finds itself in another “week after” game. This time around, will the Red Raiders be able to avoid a no-show the week after a breakthrough game?
Texas Tech 28-27
No. 69 Minnesota at No. 25 Wisconsin
After three games, Wisconsin ranked 94th in the nation in rushing offense (119.7 ypg) and 116th in total offense (276.0 ypg). Now, the Badgers rank 48th in rushing (181.1 ypg) and 87th in total offense (374.0 ypg). It’s still not what we expect from this program, but there are significant signs of life.
No. 117 Idaho at No. 27 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech rolled up over 600 yards of offense vs. an SEC team last week, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs battled Arkansas to the wire before falling 59–57 in what will be one of the more memorable games of the season. This one will be far less exciting.
Louisiana Tech 65-17
No. 29 Nebraska at No. 40 Northwestern
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that have aspirations of representing the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska, which gave up 63 points in a loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, has to win this game to remain a threat in the division race.
No. 42 Baylor at No. 30 Texas
Baylor snapped a 12-game losing streak to Texas with a 30–22 win in Austin in October 2011 and followed up with a 48–24 victory in Waco last December. Now, the Bears will be aiming for their first-ever three-game winning streak against UT. Scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem against a Texas defense that has given up 111 points in the last two games. But can Baylor slow down the Longhorns enough to win the game? That is the big question.
No. 31 Washington at No. 32 Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record.
No. 41 Iowa State at No. 33 Oklahoma State
Should we be concerned that Oklahoma State was held to 371 total yards and 20 points against Kansas last week? Possibly, but we are willing to give the Pokes a mulligan.
Oklahoma State 31-27
No. 101 UNLV at No. 34 Boise State
UNLV held leads of 21–0, 28–7 and 31–21 last week against rival Nevada but ended up on the wrong end of a 42–37 final. Bobby Hauck’s team doesn’t have much to show for it, but the Rebels are an improved team in 2012. Now, can they keep it interesting in Boise this week? Not likely.
Boise State 37-17
No. 36 NC State at No. 64 Maryland
Maryland is a surprise at 4–2 overall and 2–0 in the ACC despite having an offense that ranks last in the league with 267.5 yards per game.
NC State 24-17
No. 91 San Diego State at No. 37 Nevada
The Wolf Pack avoided disaster last week, rallying from 21–0 to beat UNLV 42–37 in Vegas. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed last week’s game with an injured back, is expected to return to action. That’s not good news for San Diego State.
No. 39 Penn State at No. 46 Iowa
Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins has come by 11 points or more. Bill O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.
Penn State 21-20
No. 43 North Carolina at No. 59 Duke
Duke must recover from a gut-wrenching loss at Virginia Tech last Saturday. The Blue Devils, seeking their sixth win of the season, led 20–0 in the first quarter but did not score again and lost 41–20. The Devils still have five more opportunities to become bowl-eligible, but they might be an underdog in all five games. North Carolina, which can’t play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, is quietly playing very good football.
North Carolina 24-20
No. 106 Rice at No. 44 Tulsa
Tulsa has emerged as the team to beat in Conference USA West thanks to a 4–0 start in the league. The Golden Hurricane lead the nation in sacks (4.71 per game) and tackles for a loss (9.86 per game).
No. 49 ULM at No. 45 Western Kentucky
It’s the game of the year in the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky is 5–1 with the lone loss at Alabama, while ULM is 4–2 with an overtime loss at Auburn and five-point loss at Baylor. These aren’t just good Sun Belt teams; they are good teams period.
Western Kentucky 31-30
No. 121 New Mexico State at No. 53 Utah State
Utah State has lost two games — at Wisconsin and at BYU — by a total of five points. New Mexico State has lost all five of its games vs. FBS foes. Maybe that’s why Utah State is favored by 30.5 points.
Utah State 47-17
No. 55 Northern Illinois at No. 110 Akron
Northern Illinois has 14 plays from scrimmage of 40 yards or more. Only two teams nationally have more (Baylor and Georgia Tech). It could be a long night for the Akron defense.
Northern Illinois 37-16
No. 72 Auburn at No. 56 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006.
No. 95 Boston College at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has given up 42 points or more in its last three games — all losses. That streak will come to an end this week.
Georgia Tech 34-20
No. 62 UCF at No. 118 Memphis
It was back to reality last week for Memphis. One week after breaking through with a 14–10 win over Rice, the Tigers lost 41–7 at East Carolina. UCF is playing its first road game since Sept. 8.
No. 68 Pittsburgh at No. 116 Buffalo
The first season of the Paul Chryst era has been a disappointment — the Panthers have lost four games — but Tino Sunseri has shined at the quarterback position. The oft-maligned quarterback ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 10 touchdowns and two picks.
No. 111 Wyoming at No. 71 Fresno State
I thought Fresno State was ready to make a statement and beat Boise State last week. I was wrong. The Bulldogs lost 20–10 to fall to 4–3 overall. They should get win No. 5 without much trouble.
Fresno State 30-20
No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 73 Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done a tremendous job at Kent State. The Golden Flashes are 5–1 overall and 3–0 in the MAC despite playing only two of their first six games at home.
Kent State 30-27
No. 74 Ball State at No. 105 Central Michigan
Central Michigan has failed to capitalize on a potential breakthrough win at Iowa in Week 3. Since that victory in Ames, the Chippewas are 0–3 and have given up a total of 136 points. Last week, they were beaten soundly by Navy 31–13 at home before a sparse crowd. Dan Enos could be in trouble.
Ball State 37-13
No. 78 East Carolina at No. 98 UAB
Don’t expect too much production on the ground in this game. East Carolina ranks 108th in the nation in rushing with 103.7 yards per game. UAB is at 117th with 82.3 yards per game.
East Carolina 34-20
No. 81 Wake Forest at No. 80 Virginia
These two struggling teams have something in common: They’ve both lost to Duke and Maryland, in that order, in their last two games. Statistically, Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack in both total offense (51st) and total defense (53rd), but the Cavs have been undone by turnovers (119th in turnover margin).
Wake Forest 27-23
No. 83 San Jose State at No. 113 Texas-San Antonio
The Spartans must regroup after losing at home 49–27 to Utah State in a battle of improving WAC programs. Here’s a scary stat: San Jose State quarterback David Fales had a net of negative-98 yards rushing thanks to getting sacked 13 times.
San Jose State 34-10
No. 85 Indiana at No. 92 Navy
Indiana has averaged 35.0 points in its three Big Ten games. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Hoosiers are giving up 42.3 points in league games. The result is an 0–3 record, but Kevin Wilson’s club is showing signs of significant improvement. IU has lost its last two games, to Michigan State and Ohio State, by a combined seven points.
No. 104 FIU at No. 86 Troy
Mario Cristobal’s name won’t be linked to as many jobs this offseason. FIU is 1–6 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt after losing at home to Middle Tennessee last week. The Golden Panthers ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense last season (19.5 ppg) when they went 8–5; this year, they rank 108th (37.3 ppg) with five games to play.
No. 88 Marshall at No. 103 Southern Miss
No program has fallen faster than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles went 12–2 last year and capped their season with a 24–17 win over a very good Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl. This year, however, USM is 0–6 under new coach Ellis Johnson, who is not a popular man in Hattiesburg.
No. 90 New Mexico at No. 107 Air Force
New Mexico is last in the nation in passing offense (59.0 ypg) and is the only team in the country with just one passing touchdown. But the Lobos are winning games under first-year coach Bob Davie, who has implemented an option attack in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 27-24
No. 93 Bowling Green at No. 123 UMass
Bowling Green has won three straight games and is in position to challenge Ohio for the MAC East title. The Falcons should be 4–1 in the league when they head to Oxford on Nov. 7.
Bowling Green 44-13
No. 112 Tulane at No. 97 UTEP
Curtis Johnson picked up his first win at Tulane last week, a 27–26 victory over SMU at the Superdome. The Green Wave hadn’t scored more than 13 points in any game before “busting out” and putting 27 on the board.
No. 114 Army at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
These two teams have combined to win one game this season —Army's 34–31 victory over Boston College. Eastern Michigan ranks 70th or worse in every key stat maintained by the NCAA, with the exception of net punting. The Eagles, who have a lot of practice in the area, rank seventh with an average net of 42.2 yards.
No. 124 FAU at No. 122 South Alabama
It’s been a rough first season for Carl Pelini at FAU. The Owls are 1–5 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt. They have been bad on defense and really bad on offense. It’s tough to find a win on FAU’s schedule if it doesn’t get one this week.
South Alabama 27-17
Last week: 40-11
The Week 8 shedule in the SEC his highlighted by South Carolina's trip to Gainesville to battle Florida, but the Texas A&M-LSU showdown in College Station will be fun to watch as well. Can the Tigers' defense slow down Johnny Manziel? Stay tuned.
Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions
SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8
1. Can Johnny Manziel make plays against the LSU defense?
Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football. Consider this stat: Texas A&M has played in one less game than LSU, yet Manziel has almost twice at many total yards (2,356 to 1,220) as Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Manziel, however, has yet to see a defense as formidable as LSU. In the opener against Florida, the only other top-flight defense A&M has faced, the Aggies were held to 17 points, and Manziel had a season-low 233 total yards. This should be a fascinating battle between two vastly different styles of play.
2. Can the LSU offensive line hold up?
An LSU offensive front that was expected to be among the nation’s finest struggled early in the season. Sure, injuries played a part — left tackle Chris Faulk was lost for the season after one game — but there is no denying that this unit underperformed at key times. That, however, was not the case Saturday night. The line played arguably its best game of the season, especially when you factor in the quality of the competition. South Carolina entered the night ranked ninth in the nation in rushing defense and had not given up more than 120 yards on the ground in any game. Led by freshman Jeremy Hill, LSU powered its way to 258 yards and two scores on 53 attempts. And that was with Alex Hurst, a preseason All-American, and Josh Williford out with injuries, and center P.J. Longergan slowed by a back injury. Only one player, left guard, La’El Collins, has played in the same spot in every game this season. We often to point to depth as what separates programs like Alabama and LSU from the rest of the league — and country, at times. LSU needs its depth on the offensive line to shine in the second half of the season if it hopes to remain relevant in the national title chase.
3. Who will play quarterback for Auburn?
Auburn has yet to announce a starter for its game Saturday at Vanderbilt, and it’s possible that all three scholarship quarterbacks will see action. Clint Moseley, making his first start of the 2012 season, received the majority of the snaps in last week’s loss at Ole Miss. The junior started strong, completing 8-of-8 for 80 yards in the first half but he went 3-of-10 for 32 yards the rest of the way. True freshman Jonathan Wallace did not attempt a pass but had six carries for 14 yards out of the Wildcat formation. Sophomore Kiehl Frazier, the starter in the first five games, did not play — due in part to injury and in part to his early season struggles. As a team, Auburn was held to 213 total yards against an Ole Miss defense that had been allowing an average of 379.8 yards per game.
4. Can Vanderbilt handle the role of the favorite?
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006. Overall, Vanderbilt is 6–11 straight up as the favorite vs. AQ conference opponents in the past 10-plus years, including a 2–2 record under James Franklin.
5. Can South Carolina win if it’s forced to pass?
Connor Shaw has proven himself to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. But it’s clear that South Carolina is a better team when Shaw is asked to do less in the passing game. It’s no knock on him as a player — it’s just the way this team is constructed. I realize the sample size isn’t huge, but consider the Gamecocks’ last two games: Shaw attempted 10 passes in a 35–7 win over Georgia; he attempted 34 in a 23¬–21 loss at LSU. Against Georgia, South Carolina jumped out to an early lead and leaned on tailback Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries. In the loss in Baton Rouge, Lattimore and Shaw both struggled to run the ball, which forced South Carolina to rely on its passing attack. The results weren’t favorable. Shaw completed a season-low 55.9 percent of his passes and was intercepted twice. Obviously, a lot of teams are going to struggle against LSU, but it will be interesting going forward — starting with this weekend against Florida — to see if South Carolina can beat an elite opponent by throwing the ball.
6. Can Florida hold Marcus Lattimore to under 100 yards (if he plays)?
Name the last player to top the 100-yard mark against Florida. If you said Jerodis Williams (133 yards in Week 11 last season) from Furman, you’d be correct. The Gators have now gone eight straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That streak will be tested this weekend when Marcus Lattimore and South Carolina visit Gainesville, provided Lattimore overcomes a hip injury to play against the Gators. Lattimore is coming off his worst game of the season (35 yards on 13 carries against LSU), but he is still one of the elite backs in college football. He missed the Florida game last season with an injury, but had one of his finest moments of his career two years ago against the Gators when he ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries in a 36–14 Carolina victory. Florida currently ranks 20th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 107.5 yards per game. The Gators did a great job against LSU two weeks ago, but had some trouble at times stopping Vanderbilt’s power rushing attack last week in Nashville. The Commodores’ two primary tailbacks combined to run for 152 yards on 34 carries.
7. Is AJ McCarron hurt? If so, can Alabama still win at Neyland Stadium?
The short answers: Who knows, and yes. McCarron has been one of the more underrated quarterbacks nationally in the last year-and-a-half. He’s done a masterful job doing what needs to be done as the leader of the Alabama attack — complete a high percentage of his passes (66.5 for his career) and not make mistakes (five interceptions in 338 career attempts). There have been reports this week that McCarron is dealing with a knee injury. He is still expected to play against Tennessee, but Alabama is built as well as any team in the nation to succeed with a backup quarterback. Sure, it would be nice to have a completely healthy McCarron this Saturday night in Knoxville, but the Tide will be fine if they are forced to turn to Blake Sims.
8. Will Tennessee find new ways to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball?
Justin Hunter might be the Tennessee’s most polished offensive player, but Patterson has emerged as the Volunteers’ most dynamic playmaker. Last week against Mississippi State, Patterson caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, carried the ball three times for 57 yards and had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. For the season, Patterson, a junior college transfer, is averaging 15.5 yards on his 34 offensive touches. The task for Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is to get the ball in Patterson’s hands — either on direct snaps out of the Wildcat, conventional handoffs from the quarterback or quick-hitting passes. He is simply too good not to get at least 10 offensive touches per game.
9. Can Mississippi State avoid the letdown?
One of the biggest wins in the Dan Mullen era, a 41–31 victory over Tennessee, has set up one of the biggest games in the history of the program … if Mississippi State beats Middle Tennessee on Saturday. An MSU win over the Blue Raiders coupled with an Alabama win over Tennessee sets up a showdown of 7–0 teams in Tuscaloosa in two weeks. Before that dream matchup becomes a reality, the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee team that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
10. Can Kentucky hit the elusive 250-yard mark against Georgia?
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play. This week, Whitlow will get the start against a Georgia team that is eager to get back on the field after having a bye last week. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent on defense but gave up a total of 79 points in their last two games — a win vs. Tennessee and a loss at South Carolina. Yards figure to be very difficult to come by for the Wildcats.
Week 8 SEC Predictions
|Week 8 SEC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
LSU (-3.5) at Texas A&M
|Texas A&M 28-24||LSU 24-21||
|Auburn (+7) at Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt 17-7||Vanderbilt 34-24||
South Carolina (+3) at Florida
|South Carolina 24-17||Florida 20-17||
Alabama (-18) at Tennessee
|Alabama 38-14||Alabama 38-14||
Georgia (-27.5) at Kentucky
|Georgia 41-10||Georgia 45-17||
Middle Tennessee (+19) at Mississippi State
|Miss. State 35-7||Miss. State 30-20||
Miss. State 38-14
|Miss. State 34-20|
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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.
Coach of the Year — Will Muschamp, Florida
After struggling through a difficult first season — the Gators’ 3–5 record in the SEC in 2011 was the school’s worst since 1986 — Muschamp has the Gators in the thick of the SEC East race in Year 2. Florida improved to 6–0 overall and 5–0 in the league with a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Gators are winning with defense and power-running game — a formula that has served Muschamp’s former boss, Nick Saban, quite well over the years. Senior tailback Mike Gillislee ranks second in the SEC in rushing with 102.5 yards per game and is on pace to be Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The defense has been dominant, ranking 13th in the nation in total yards and sixth in points allowed.
Freshman of the Year — Todd Gurley, Georgia
Johnny Manziel is the midseason Offense Player of the Year, so we will tab Gurley as the SEC’s top freshman. The 6-1, 218-pound native of North Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 95.8 yards per game on a healthy 7.1-yard average. He has topped the 100-yard mark in four of six games and had back-to-back 130-yard efforts in wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall is averaging 77.5 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry.
Newcomer of the Year — Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson has lived up to the hype in his first season out of junior college. The 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Through six games, Patterson has 23 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns and has carried the ball 11 times for 214 yards (19.5 per rush) and two scores. He teams with junior Justin Hunter to form one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receiver tandems.
Offensive Player of the Year — Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel, a one-time Oregon commitment, has been spectacular for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies in their first season in the SEC. A true dual-threat quarterback, Manziel is one of three quarterbacks in the nation with over 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He has been efficient throwing the ball, completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Most important, he’s winning: The Aggies are 5–1 overall and 2–1 in the SEC, with the only loss coming by three points to Florida in their season-opener. Manziel was at his best in A&M’s 59–57 win at Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. He broke is own SEC record for total yards in a game (576) by throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 181 and three scores.
Defensive Player of the Year — Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
Georgia’s Jarvis Jones received a lot of buzz early in the season, but Clowney has been the most dominant defender in the first half of 2012. A freakishly athletic 6-6, 256-pound defensive end, Clowney spearheads a defense that has limited all seven opponents — including five in conference play — to 17 points or fewer. Clowney, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has recorded 31 tackles, including 12.0 for a loss (with 6.5 sacks).
Midseason Disappointment (Team) — Auburn
Just two years removed from winning the national championship, Auburn is now the worst the team in the SEC West. The Tigers secured that dubious honor by losing on Saturday at Ole Miss, which had not won an SEC game since October 2010. Auburn is 1–5 overall and 0–4 in the SEC and ranks last in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense. The Tigers head to Nashville this week to play Vanderbilt in a game Gene Chizik cannot afford to lose.
Midseason Disappointment (Player) — Knile Davis, Arkansas
Maybe he’s not 100 percent healthy after missing last season with an ankle injury, but Davis has yet to show the skills that made him one of the elite offensive players in the nation in the final two-thirds of the 2010 season. Through seven games, Davis has a total of 337 yards on 98 carries for an alarmingly low 3.4 yards-per-carry average — almost three yards less than his career average heading into the ’12 season.
Midseason Surprise (Team) — Florida
Mississippi State deserves a ton of credit for its 6–0 start, but Florida gets the nod thanks to its top-5 ranking and the quality of its wins. The Gators, a fringe-top-25 team in the preseason, already have three SEC road wins and have a victory over LSU at home. There are still more hurdles to climb — the Gators play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks — but right now Florida looks like the best team in the much-improved SEC East.
Midseason Surprise (Player) — Jeff Driskel, Florida
The quarterback position was a huge concern for Florida heading into the 2012 season. Now it’s a strength. Driskel has emerged as a weapon in the Gators’ run-first offense and has also shown the ability to hurt defense’s in the passing game. He has completed 74-of-111 passes for 836 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. He had moderate success running the ball in Florida’s first five games but then busted out with 181 yards (a record for a Gator quarterback) and three touchdowns in a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt Saturday night.
What Athlon Sports got right — We weren’t exactly going out on a limb, but Kentucky was the preseason pick to finish last in the SEC East. We also projected a three-way tie for fourth place in the East between Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and it looks like all three teams will be jockeying for position in the middle of the division throughout the conference season.
What Athlon Sports got wrong — We undervalued South Carolina and Florida, projecting both to finish 5–3 and in a tie for second place in the East behind Georgia. We thought LSU would finish ahead of Alabama in the West, but it looks as though the Crimson Tide will represent the division in the SEC title game. And we also didn’t envision that Auburn would be quite so bad. We picked the Tigers to finish with a .500 mark in the SEC and in fourth place in the West.
Here’s how we think things will look at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
2. South Carolina
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
6. Ole Miss
Three Things to Watch
Coaches on the Hot Seat — Joker Phillips is almost assuredly gone at Kentucky, and the John L. Smith experiment will come to an end some time in December, but what about the other coaches on the hot seat? Can Derek Dooley do enough in the second half of the season to save his job? Conventional wisdom suggest that Dooley must win at least eight games, but would an 8–4 record that doesn’t include a quality win in SEC play be enough to give him another year? What about Gene Chizik? Would the Auburn administration pull the plug only two years after he won a national title. Here’s some advice for Chizik: Don’t lose to Vanderbilt next week in Nashville.
LSU’s offense — The Tigers, as usual, are fielding a championship defense. The offense, however, isn’t quite doing its part. Through six games, LSU ranks 73rd in the nation in total offense (395.7) and 49th in scoring offense (32.0 ppg). In three SEC games, wins over Auburn and South Carolina and a loss at Florida, the Tigers have scored a total of 41 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to upgrade the passing attack, ranks 10th in the SEC in passing efficiency and has only six touchdown passes in seven games. Despite the disappointing showing in Gainesville two weeks ago, LSU is still very much alive in the national title race. The offense, however, must improve significantly for this team to live up to its preseason expectations.
Auburn’s question to win a game — Take a look at Auburn’s schedule. If the Tigers don’t win this weekend at Vanderbilt — and they opened as an 8-point underdog — it’s quite possible they will end the 2012 SEC season with an 0–8 record. After Saturday’s trip to Nashville, Auburn hosts Texas A&M (Oct. 27) and Georgia (Nov. 10) and plays at Alabama (Nov. 24) — games that range from difficult to very difficult to sure death. The Tigers have gone winless in the SEC five times, most recently in 1980 when Doug Barfield’s final team went 0–6.
Three Games to Watch in the Second Half
1. South Carolina at Florida, Oct. 20 — The winner of next week’s showdown at the Swamp will emerge as a strong favorite to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. Two years ago, South Carolina clinched its first-ever SEC East title with an impressive 36–14 win over the Gators in Gainesville. This Florida team, however, is much tougher — both physically and mentally. It should be a great game.
2. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3 — The hype won’t be quite as outrageous as last year, but this is still the game of the year in the SEC. Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and LSU proved last week in its win over South Carolina that it’s still very capable of beating any team in the nation.
3. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 27 — Georgia’s ego took a big hit with its humbling 35–7 loss at South Carolina a few weeks ago, but this still a very good team that can still have a special season. The Dawgs need some help, but don’t rule out a return to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Beating Florida in Jacksonville, however, is a must.
Post-Week 7 Power Rankings
1. Alabama — Crimson Tide overpower Missouri to remain unbeaten.
2. Florida — It wasn't easy, but Gators survive in Nashville thanks to Jeff Driskel.
3. LSU — Tigers' defense shuts down Gamecocks attack.
4. South Carolina — Did Carolina's title hope die in Death Valley?
5. Georgia — Dawgs still very much alive in SEC East race.
6. Mississippi State — Russell was the better Tyler as State stays perfect.
7. Texas A&M — Johnny Manziel runs and throws Aggies past Louisiana Tech.
8. Tennessee — Vols doomed by slow start in Starkville.
9. Arkansas — Hogs dominate Kentucky with ease.
10. Vanderbilt — Special teams was the difference in loss vs. Florida.
11. Ole Miss — Rebels pick up first SEC win in two years.
12. Missouri — Shorthanded Tigers no match for powerful Alabama.
13. Auburn — Tigers show signs of life on offense but lose in Oxford.
14. Kentucky — Wildcats whipped in every phase in Fayetteville.
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Week 7 College Football Recap
ACC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
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Big Ten Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
College football's Week 7 action is highlighted by a huge matchup in the SEC — what else in new? — Stanford's trip to Notre Dame (will the Irish give up a touchdown), and the Red River Shootout in Dallas.
Our picks for every game in Week 7
No. 91 Navy at No. 99 Central Michigan
Central Michigan ranks 114th in the nation in stopping the run. Not a good stat with Navy coming to town. This is not a vintage Navy team — it’s not even a good navy team — but the Midshipmen should be able to run the ball enough to win this game.
Central Michigan 33-31
No. 1 Alabama at No. 48 Missouri
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury. Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. Good luck, Mizzou.
No. 3 South Carolina at No. 8 LSU
LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
South Carolina 17-13
No. 19 Stanford at No. 4 Notre Dame
It’s kind of strange to say, but this Notre Dame team isn’t getting enough credit. The Fighting Irish are 5–0, with four of the wins coming against AQ conference teams. The defense has been absolutely dominant. Consider the following: Michigan State, Michigan and Miami (Fla.) combined to scored 12 points against the Irish in successive games.
Notre Dame 24-13
No. 5 Florida at No. 57 Vanderbilt
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Expect the Gators to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
No. 6 West Virginia at No. 41 Texas Tech
It’s no secret that Geno Smith is having a spectacular season, but have you taken a close look at his numbers? They are simply amazing. He’s completing 81.4 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 399.2 passing yards per game (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 9.8 yards per attempt (No. 3 in the nation); he’s thrown 24 touchdowns (No. 1 in the nation and six more than anyone else); and he hasn’t thrown an interception (one of four quarterbacks nationally with over 100 attempts and no picks). Bottom line: He’s very good at playing quarterback.
West Virginia 44-24
No. 7 Kansas State at No. 42 Iowa State
It’s a battle of two coaches who have made a habit of doing more with less. Bill Snyder has Kansas State ranked in the top 10 after a 5–0 start that features wins over Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Collin Klein has been sensational at quarterback for the Cats; he ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and is averaging 81.0 yards rushing per game. Iowa State is 4–1 under fourth-year coach Paul Rhoads thanks to a defense that is giving up 15.8 points per game.
Kansas State 27-17
No. 9 Ohio State at No. 97 Indiana
Indiana hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 1988, and the Hoosiers haven’t lost by less than 10 points to Buckeyes since 1993 (23–17 in Columbus). This one won’t be close.
Ohio State 44-17
No. 11 USC at No. 26 Washington
USC’s last trip to Seattle didn’t go too well. Back in 2009, the Trojans were held to a season-low 13 points in a four-point loss in the first and only Pete Carroll vs. Steve Sarkisian matchup. Sarkisian is 1–1 vs. Carroll’s successor, Lane Kiffin, with a win in L.A. in 2010 and a loss in L.A. last fall.
No. 12 Texas vs. No. 14 Oklahoma (Dallas)
First the good news: Texas is averaging 46.8 points per game and has finally identified a quarterback in sophomore David Ash. Now, the bad news: A Longhorn defense that was expected to be among the best in the nation has given up 115 points in the last three weeks. The most troubling part has been Texas’ inability to stop the run. Last week, West Virginia’s Andrew Buie gashed the Horns for 207 yards on 31 carries. Oklahoma is hoping to be the next team to take advantage of Texas’ cooperative run defense.
No. 96 Boston College at No. 13 Florida State
Florida State’s national title received a crippling blow last week at NC State. Now, the Seminoles must regroup and focus on winning their first ACC title since 2005. Boston College figures to put up little resistance after losing last Saturday to an Army team that lost to Stony Brook the previous week.
Florida State 38-13
No. 16 Oregon State at No. 46 BYU
Oregon State received a dose of bad news early this week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion was ruled out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Beavers’ win over Washington State last week. The next man up is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t thrown a pass since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. With the inexperienced Vaz taking snaps, expect to see the Beavers lean on tailbacks Storm Woods and Marcus Agnew.
Oregon State 24-14
No. 17 Louisville at No. 67 Pittsburgh
Louisville is only a field goal favorite over a Pittsburgh team that has lost to Youngstown State by 14 points, Cincinnati by 24 points and Syracuse by one point. That line seems a bit low, but the Cardinals struggled on the road against inferior opponents in their last two games, beating FIU by seven and Southern Miss (in a driving rainstorm) by four points.
No. 66 Syracuse at No. 18 Rutgers
Rutgers is undefeated and nationally ranked thanks to a defense that has given up an average of 10.8 points per game. Syracuse scored a total of 70 points in its first two games vs. FBS foes but has totaled 24 points in its last two. Points will be tough to come by for the Orange on Saturday.
No. 71 Illinois at No. 20 Michigan
Michigan is no doubt disappointed to “only” be 3–2 at this point of the season, but it’s important to note that the Wolverines’ two losses came to Alabama and Notre Dame, two top-five teams with a combined record of 10–0. This is still a solid Michigan team.
No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 24 Texas A&M
Louisiana Tech has made its first-ever appearance in the coaches poll thanks to a 5–0 start that features road wins over Houston, Illinois and Virginia. The Bulldogs are averaging 523.4 yards and 53.2 points per game running Sonny Dykes’ wide-open attack. Tech will need to score plenty of points on Saturday because its defense — which ranks 119th in the nation — will have a tough time slowing down Texas A&M.
Texas A&M 44–37
No. 34 Tennessee at No 22 Mississippi State
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville.
Fordham at No. 23 Cincinnati
We are in the seventh week of the season, and Cincinnati has only played three FBS opponents. The Bearcats have had two byes and are playing an FCS foe for the second time.
No. 60 Iowa at No. 27 Michigan State
Michigan State avoided disaster by rallying from deficits of 17–0 and 27–17 (in the fourth quarter) to beat Indiana 31–27. Iowa is back in action after enjoying a week off. The Hawkeyes have found a running game — Mark Weisman is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing with 103.0 yards per game — but quarterback James Vandenberg only has two touchdown passes in 159 attempts. He had 25 in 404 attempts last year.
Michigan State 13-10
No. 28 Nevada at No. 103 UNLV
Nevada has won seven straight in this in-state rivalry — and each of the last four have been by 18 points or more. The Wolf Pack struggled last week with Wyoming, winning by seven in overtime in Reno. That is not a good sign.
No. 55 Utah at No. 30 UCLA
The Bruins have lost two of three after opening the Jim Mora era with three straight wins. UCLA scored a total of 37 points in its losses — vs. Oregon State and at Cal — despite averaging a more-than-respectable 408 yards in those two games. Brett Hundley was picked off four times vs. California. That, obviously, cannot happen.
No. 32 Oklahoma State at No. 95 Kansas
Kansas lost to Rice, which lost to Memphis (yes, Memphis), which lost to Tennessee-Martin. Things aren’t going well in Year 1 of the Charlie Weis era.
Oklahoma State 41-10
No. 70 Fresno State at No 33 Boise State
Boise State might be 4–1 and nationally ranked — though not by Athlon Sports — but this is not a great Bronco team. They struggled with New Mexico two weeks ago before beating up on a Southern Miss team in shambles. Fresno State has the edge at the skill positions. I smell upset.
Fresno State 30, Boise State 23
No. 43 TCU at No. 36 Baylor
TCU lost at home to Iowa State 37–23 in its first game without Casey Pachall. Trevone Boykin stepped in and threw for 270 yards but was picked off three times. The Horned Frogs need to bounce back quickly, because the schedule in the second half of the season is not kind.
No. 110 Akron at No. 37 Ohio
Ohio is still undefeated, but the Bobcats haven’t exactly been playing great football. Here are their last three games vs. FBS opponents: Marshall (27–24), UMass (37–34) and Buffalo (38–31).
No. 39 Northwestern at No. 68 Minnesota
Both of these teams only have one loss on the season, but Northwestern is far more battle-tested. The Wildcats have wins over Syracuse (on the road), Vanderbilt, Indiana and Boston College, while Minnesota’s lone FBS win came against Syracuse. Last week, the Gophers were handled with ease in their Big Ten opener by Iowa, 31–13.
No. 40 Wisconsin at No. 45 Purdue
Purdue had a chance to make a statement last week but was surprisingly uncompetitive in a 44–13 loss at home to Michigan. Wisconsin is quietly playing much better in recent weeks. Joel Stave has been solid at quarterback.
No. 51 North Carolina at No. 44 Miami (Fla.)
Still not sure what to make of either one of these teams. They’ve both looked good at times — Miami scored a total of 86 points in wins over Georgia Tech and NC State; North Carolina pounded Virginia Tech last weekend. And they’ve both looked bad at times — Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16; Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest and trailed Louisville at the half 36–7.
Miami (Fla.) 37-33
No. 123 Florida Atlantic at No. 47 ULM
After opening up with three straight games against AQ conference opponents — and doing quite well (1–2 vs. Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor) — ULM beat Tulane and Middle Tennessee (both on the road) by a combined score of 94–27. The Warhawks shouldn’t have any trouble with FAU.
ULM 47, Florida Atlantic 13
No. 50 California at No. 102 Washington State
Cal was in a must-win mode last weekend, and the Golden Bears delivered with a 43–17 victory over UCLA in Berkeley. Zach Maynard was very sharp (25-of-30 for 295 yards), and C.J. Anderson rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries. This team has plenty of talent.
No. 52 Utah State at No. 79 San Jose State
It’s a big battle in the WAC between two of the nation’s most underrated coaches, Utah State’s Gary Andersen and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre. Utah State has lost two games, to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points; San Jose State has lost one game, to Stanford by three points. These are quality teams.
Utah State 27, San Jose State 24
No. 53 Duke at No 54 Virginia Tech
Duke is 5–1 and one win away from bowl-eligibility, but the Blue Devils still have plenty of doubters. The schedule has been very kind. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four and has given up 27 points or more in all three defeats. This will be a tough test for the Hokies’ defense.
Virginia Tech 27-17
No. 62 Auburn at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss is much improved under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but it’s still alarming that Auburn — a program that won the national title two years ago — is a six-point underdog to the Rebels. The Tigers’ faithful won’t be pleased with Gene Chizik if Auburn loses in Oxford.
Ole Miss 27-20
No. 105 Southern Miss at No. 59 UCF
Southern Miss continues to struggle under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, who is under fire from a program that expects to win. The Golden Eagles rank 114th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in scoring defense.
No. 81 Kentucky at No. 61 Arkansas
The Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips.
No. 114 Buffalo at No. 63 Northern Illinois
Jordan Lynch is having a terrific first season as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. The junior is averaging 209.2 yards passing (with nine touchdowns and three INTs) and 131.5 yards rushing (with nine TDs). Denard Robinson is the only quarterback with better rushing numbers nationally.
Northern Illinois 47-17
No. 65 Toledo at No. 117 Eastern Michigan
It’s been a struggle in 2012 for Ron English and Eastern Michigan. After breaking through with six wins in 2011, hopes were high for the Eagles this fall. It hasn’t quite worked out. EMU is 0–5 (with a loss to FCS foe Illinois State) and is ranked near the bottom of the nation in total offense and total defense.
No. 72 Western Michigan at No. 83 Ball State
Ball State has split its last four games, beating two AQ conference opponents (Indiana and South Florida) and losing to two MAC teams (Kent State and Northern Illinois). Western Michigan, which lost to Toledo at home a few weeks ago, cannot afford another loss in league play.
Western Michigan 30-27
No. 75 Temple at No. 73 Connecticut
Connecticut has been one of the most “lopsided” teams in the nation. The Huskies rank sixth in the nation in total defense (248.8 ypg) and 110th in total offense (310.5 ypg). This figures to be a low-scoring affair.
No. 74 Maryland at No. 78 Virginia
We thought Virginia might take a step back in 2012 after suffering some key personnel losses. But we didn’t expect this: a 2–4 record with a 36-point loss to Georgia Tech and a 25-point loss to Duke. Maryland, on the other hand, is showing signs of being a competitive football program — a positive step after last year’s debacle.
No. 116 Memphis at No. 80 East Carolina
Last week, Memphis won its first C-USA home game since October 2009. The Tigers rallied to beat Rice 14¬-10 in a game that featured only 466 yards of total offense. Memphis’ winning streak will be snapped at one.
East Carolina 37-10
No. 82 Kent State at No. 113 Army
It’s been a strange three-game stretch for Army. The Black Knights scored a total of 71 points in two games vs. AQ conference opponents (37 in a loss to Wake Forest and 34 in a win over Boston College) and three points in loss at home to FCS foe Stony Brook. That doesn’t make much sense.
Kent State 31-17
No. 85 SMU at No. 124 Tulane
In very un-June Jones-like fashion, SMU beat UTEP 17–0 on the road last week. In the last two games, the Mustangs have allowed a total of 431 yards. They gave up 452 yards or more in each of their first three games.
No. 98 UAB at No. 86 Houston
This is a bit of a statistical oddity: Houston is ranked ninth in the nation in total offense despite scoring 13 points in two of its five games. The Cougars are piling up the yards but have struggled to score at times due a turnover differential of minus-0.8 per game.
No. 87 Middle Tennessee at No. 100 FIU
FIU might be the most disappointing team in the nation. The Golden Panthers, expected to compete for the Sun Belt title, are 1–5 overall (with the one win coming at home in overtime to Akron) and 0–2 in league play.
Middle Tennessee 21-20
No. 121 South Alabama at No. 89 Arkansas State
Maybe my expectations were too high for the Gus Malzahan-Ryan Aplin combo, but it’s a bit of a surprise that Arkansas State hasn’t scored more than 34 points vs. an FBS opponent this year.
Arkansas State 34-13
No. 119 Colorado State at No. 90 San Diego State
Jim McElwain is discovering that it’s far more difficult calling plays with Colorado State’s players than it was at Alabama. The Rams rank 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 106th in total offense.
San Diego State 37-17
No. 92 New Mexico at No. 118 Hawaii
Bob Davie is doing a fine job in his first season at New Mexico. The Lobos, who are running an option attack, have three wins through six games in 2012; they had a total of three wins from 2009-11.
New Mexico 31-23
No. 109 Miami (Ohio) at No. 93 Bowling Green
Ohio is clearly the team to beat, but Bowling Green is good enough to be a factor in the MAC East. Miami is 2–0 in the league, but that record is a product of a soft early slate. Bowling Green is the better team.
Bowing Green 31-20
No. 115 Idaho at No. 104 Texas State
Texas State has struggled a bit since its shocking season-opening win at Houston. The Bobcats are 1–3 since that win, with a four-point victory over Stephen F. Austin and losses to Texas Tech, Nevada and New Mexico.
Texas State 30-27
No. 111 Texas-San Antonio at No. 106 Rice
David Bailiff’s job security took a huge hit last week when Rice lost at Memphis. The Owls have one win on the season — at Kansas.
Texas-San Antonio 28-24
No. 107 Air Force at No. 122 Wyoming
Air Force is one of only two teams nationally (Texas-San Antonio is the other) that has not allowed a sack. It’s worth noting, however, that the Falcons have only attempted 57 passes in five games.
Last week: 33-19
Season to date: 287-79
The South Carolina-LSU showdown in Baton Rouge might be the biggest game in the SEC in Week 7, but Tennessee's visit to Starkville to battle Mississippi State might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. The Vols desperately need a big win to take heat off of head coach Derek Dooley, while the undefeated Bulldogs are looking to prove themselves against a qaulity opponent.
Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions
Week 7 SEC Storylines and Predictions
1. Can Tennessee take some pressure off its coach and win a big game?
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville. Tennessee showed signs of being balanced offensively in its loss at Georgia two weeks ago. The Volunteers rushed for 197 yards vs. Georgia, their best effort in an SEC game since running for 226 yards vs. Kentucky in November 2009. If the Vols can complement their potent passing attack with an adequate running game, they should be in position to win in Starkville. Mississippi State is playing well and deserves its national ranking, but the Bulldogs have not played a difficult schedule. They have faced Jackson State, Troy and South Alabama in non-conference action, and Kentucky and Auburn — two of the worst teams in the SEC — in league play. Tennessee will be by far the best offensive team Mississippi State has faced.
2. Can Texas A&M pass another road test?
The Aggies made a big statement last week by rallying from 10 points down midway through the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss 30–27. Beating the Rebels, even in Oxford, isn’t necessarily cause for celebration, but Texas A&M showed the type of resolve and mental toughness that this program has lacked in recent years. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel bounced back from his first two interceptions of the season to lead A&M on two fourth quarter touchdown drives. Now, the Aggies step out of conference, but the quality of opponent will be better. Louisiana Tech, nationally ranked in both polls after a 5–0 start, has scored 44 points or more in every game and is averaging 523.4 yards. The Bulldogs, however, have struggled on the defensive end. Texas A&M has the weapons to outscore Louisiana Tech. The Aggies also have the leadership both at quarterback and with the head coach — something that wasn’t always the case in recent years.
3. Can Auburn generate some offense in Oxford?
After scoring a total of 20 points in its first two SEC games — losses to Mississippi State and LSU — Auburn’s offense was hoping to flex its muscles against an Arkansas defense that had given up 34 points or more in each of its last four games. Didn’t happen. The Tigers scored seven points, had 321 total yards and were sacked eight times in a demoralizing 24–7 loss at home. Starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier was benched at halftime in favor of Clint Moselely. Auburn coach Gene Chizik had not named a starter of Wednesday but did say earlier in the week that his team needs to make a concerted effort to run the ball better. In the loss to Arkansas, no Auburn tailback had more than seven carries. This week, the Tigers head to Oxford to face an Ole Miss defense that is vastly improved statistically from a year ago but is still a unit that will give up some yards. In three games vs. AQ conference opponents, the Rebels are allowing 43.0 points and 487.3 yards.
4. Will Missouri hit the 200-yard mark vs. Alabama?
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury (that will keep him out for at least one more week). Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense, only allowing 191.6 yards per game and 3.3 yards per play. Good luck, Mizzou.
5. Is there something that Alabama doesn’t do well?
Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, and it’s easy to see why by looking at the stats. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense and scoring defense; they’ve scored 33 points in every game and allowed 14 points or fewer in every game; they lead the nation in turnover margin (plus-2.40 per game); and they’re solid in all special teams categories. Offensively, their yardage numbers don’t jump out initially — they rank 68th in the nation in total offense with 401.0 yards per game — but keep in mind that it’s often difficult to post up big yardage totals when you force so many turnovers (and work with short fields). They rank 79th nationally in passing offense (212.8 ypg), but they don’t have to pass much because they are so often nursing a big lead, and when they do pass, they do so efficiently (fourth in the nation in passing efficiency). This is a team that is clearly capable of winning another national title.
6. Can Florida keep its focus?
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Last year, the Commodores rallied from 17–0 in the first half to cut the lead to 20–14 (with the ball) in the fourth quarter before losing 26–21 in the Swamp. Expect Florida to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
7. Can Ole Miss break through with an SEC victory?
They are still looking for their first SEC win of the season, but the Ole Miss Rebels are clearly an improved team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Through six games, Ole Miss ranks 42nd in the nation in total offense and 56th in total defense; last year, through six games, the Rebs ranked 117th and 106th. Rebel fans are no doubt pleased with their team’s statistical improvement, but they also would like to see some SEC wins — or at least one win. It could happen this week with struggling Auburn in town. The Tigers are 1–4 overall with the lone win coming in overtime against ULM. They rank 12th in the SEC in total defense and last in total offense and are last in the nation in turnover ratio at minus-2.20 per game.
8. Can South Carolina run on LSU?
LSU’s defense has been among the finest in the nation statistically through the first half of the 2012 season. The Tigers rank third nationally in total defense (221.0 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (33.5 ppg). But LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
9. Can the LSU offense score more than a touchdown vs. an SEC foe?
Only one team nationally that has played more than one conference game has only scored one TD in league play. That team is LSU. The Tigers have scored a total of 18 points in two SEC games, 12 in a win at Auburn and six in a loss at Florida. Zach Mettenberger was expected to upgrade the passing attack in his first season as the starter, but LSU ranks 98th in the nation in passing offense and has had trouble throwing the ball down the field with consistency. The bigger concern, however, was the Tigers’ struggles in the running game in the loss at Florida. In the past few years, Les Miles could always count on his cadre of tailback to produce, even when his team’s quarterbacks were struggling. But on Saturday, LSU’s three top running backs combined to rush for 51 yards on 17 carries. The Tigers cannot compete for an SEC title with that type of production in the running game.
10. Can Arkansas win two games in a row?
Arkansas finally broke through with its first win vs. an FBS opponent, rolling past Auburn 24–7 with surprising ease. The Arkansas defense, which had been atrocious through its first five games, limited Auburn to 321 total yards and sacked the two Tiger quarterbacks a combined eight times. Now, the Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips. Arkansas is favored by 17 points — a big number for a team with only two wins — but don’t be surprised if the Hogs cover with ease.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
Auburn (+6) at Ole Miss
|Ole Miss 21-17||Ole Miss 31-24||
Ole Miss 27-24
|Ole Miss 27-20|
Alabama (-21.5) at Missouri
|Alabama 48-10||Alabama 34-14||Alabama 45-7||Alabama 30-10|
Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt
|Florida 28-10||Florida 27-21||Florida 27-13||Florida 24-14|
Kentucky (+16) at Arkansas
|Arkansas 24-14||Arkansas 30-20||
South Carolina (+2.5) at LSU
|South Carolina 17-14||LSU 20-17||
South Carolina 20-17
|South Carolina 17-13|
Tennessee (+3) at Mississippi St.
|Mississippi State 24-21||Tennessee 30-24||
Mississippi State 27-24
Texas A&M (-8) at Louisiana Tech
|Texas A&M 35-28||Texas A&M 38-34||
Texas A&M 38-34
|Texas A&M 44-37|
There was a big shakeup in the SEC on Saturday. South Carolina climbed to No. 2 in the league power rankings (and No. 3 in the nation) with their impressive win over Georgia, and Florida moved up to No. 3 after beating LSU 14–6 in Gainesville. Also, Vanderbilt jumped from 12th to ninth after beating Missouri in Columbia.
Post-Week 6 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Mike Gillislee, Florida — The senior tailback rushed for 146 yards and scored the game’s only two touchdowns in Florida’s 14–6 victory over LSU. Gillislee leads the SEC in rushing with 109.6 yards per game.
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M — Manziel threw for 191 yards and rushed for a career-high 129 as the Aggies rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Manziel has thrown for 1,285 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions and has rushed for 495 and seven scores.
3. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — Lattimore has rushed for 100-plus yards in three of four SEC games, including 109 on 24 carries in the Gamecocks’ 35–7 win over Georgia on Saturday. He is averaging 106.0 yards and has scored seven touchdowns in four SEC games.
Post-Week 6 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina — The likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft helped shut down what had been a potent Georgia attack on Saturday night. Clowney recorded four tackles, two for a loss (plus one sack) in South Carolina’s 35–7 win over Georgia.
2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia — It wasn’t the finest moment for the Georgia defense, but Jones is still one of the elite defensive players in the nation. The junior linebacker had four tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, vs. South Carolina.
3. Kevin Minter, LSU — Minter was a monster for the LSU defense in a 14–6 loss at Florida. The junior linebacker recorded 20 tackles (including two sacks) and forced a fumble vs. the Gators. In six games, he has 54 total tackles, two tackles and three pass break-ups.
Post-Week 6 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Nick Saban, Alabama — It’s tempting to put Steve Spurrier up top, but Saban is the boss of the consensus No. 1 team in the nation.
2. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina — The Gamecocks have ascended to No. 3 in the nation in the polls after beating Georgia on Saturday night. South Carolina is playing with supreme confidence.
3. Will Muschamp, Florida — The Gators improved to 4–0 in the SEC with an impressive win over LSU. The defense was dominant and the running game was sound — just like Muschamp likes it.
1. Alabama (5–0, 2-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 5 result: Bye
The Tide took the week off and watched three top-five teams lose on a crazy Saturday of college football. Next week, Alabama heads to Missouri, which must regroup after losing at home to Vanderbilt. Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is not expected to play.
Next week: at Missouri
2. South Carolina (6–0, 4–0, SEC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Georgia 35–7
On a special night in Columbia, South Carolina delivered arguably the biggest win in school history. The Gamecocks discarded SEC East rival Georgia with stunning ease and have now entered the national championship picture. “We definitely sent a message out to the whole country,” Gamecocks tailback Marcus Lattimore said. “It’s not the old South Carolina. We can play with y’all. We can play with anybody.” Lattimore led the way with 109 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. Connor Shaw only completed six passes but he threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception for the third straight game.
Next week: at LSU
3. Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 5 result: Beat LSU 14–6
The Gators passed another huge test on Saturday afternoon to improve to 4–0 in the SEC. The Florida defense, which gave up a total of 74 points in losses to LSU in 2010 and ’11, was dominant. LSU managed only 200 total yards and was held to two field goals — both in the first half. Tailback Mike Gillislee pounded out 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries to lead the Florida offensive attack. “I’ll take Gilly over anybody,” UF coach Will Muschamp said after the game. “I tell him that all the time, and I mean that. I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp. He’s a Will Muschamp guy.” The Gators only had 248 total yards, but converted 7-of-14 on third down and averaged a respectable 3.2 yards per rush.
Next week: at Vanderbilt
4. LSU (5–1, 1–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 5 result: Lost to Florida 14–6
LSU boasts a championship defense. The Tigers’ offense? Not so much. Les Miles’ club had only 200 yards of offense and did not score a touchdown on its way to its first regular-season loss since a 24–17 setback at Auburn in October 2010. Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to provide an upgrade at the quarterback position, completed only 11-of-25 passes for 158 yards — with 56 coming on one play that ended up with a fumble and lost possession. And the Tigers’ usually rock-solid rushing attack was limited to 42 yards on 25 carries.
Next week: South Carolina
5. Georgia (5–1, 3–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 5 result: Lost to South Carolina 35–7
Time to put the brakes on the “Georgia is elite” talk. The Bulldogs, who opened the season with five straight wins and climbed into the top five in the national rankings, suffered a sobering defeat at Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday night. Georgia entered the game averaging 536.0 yards and 48.2 points per game; they had 224 and seven vs. the Gamecocks. Freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, both averaging over 85 yards through the first five games, were held to a total of 76 yards on 25 carries. And Aaron Murray, the savvy junior quarterback, had the worst game of his career, completing only 11-of-31 for 198 yards and no touchdowns.
Next week: Bye
6. Mississippi State (5–0, 2–0 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 5 result: Beat Kentucky 27–14
With a huge home game with Tennessee looming, the Bulldogs avoided a letdown by beating Kentucky by 13 points in Lexington. Mississippi State jumped out to a 14–0 lead in the first quarter and was never really threatened. The Bulldogs outgained UK 428 to 228 and shined on third down, converting 10-of-18 (compared to 5-of-15 for Kentucky). Tyler Russell threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and LaDarius Perkins ran for 110 yards and a score on 24 carries. Russell, in his first season as the full-time starter, has only thrown one interception in 129 attempts.
Next week: Tennessee
7. Texas A&M (4–1, 2–1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 5 result: Beat Ole Miss 30–27
It’s not often that you can win a game on the road in the SEC when you turn the ball over six times. But Texas A&M did just that, thanks to a fourth quarter rally that turned a 27–17 deficit into a 30–27 victory — the first on the road for the Aggies in the SEC. Johnny Manziel, who didn’t throw an interception through his first four games, was picked off twice, but he made big plays when the game was on the line. He cut the lead to four with a 29-yard touchdown run with just under seven minutes remaining, and he put the Aggies on top with 2:33 on the clock when he found Ryan Swope for a 20-yard score. The redshirt freshman quarterback ended the game with 191 yards passing and 129 on the ground.
Next week: at Louisiana Tech
8. Tennessee (3–2, 0–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 9
Week 5 result: Bye
The Vols are bracing for a brutal three-game stretch that features road trips to Mississippi State and South Carolina sandwiched around a home game with Alabama. Derek Dooley cannot afford to lose all three games.
Next week: at Mississippi State
9. Vanderbilt (2–3, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 12
Week 5 Result: Beat Missouri 19–15
Vanderbilt finally won a close game. The Commodores had lost six straight games decided by seven points or less but gutted out a four-point win over Missouri in Columbia. The Commodores struggled for much of the night on offense, but moved the ball at key times in the second half and dominated on special teams to give James Franklin his first SEC road win as the head coach at Vanderbilt. Tailback Zac Stacy’s stat line wasn’t overly impressive — he netted 72 yards on 29 carries — but he scored two touchdowns, threw a 24-yard pass to Jordan Rodgers and salted the game away with a third down run in the final 90 seconds.
Next week: Florida
10. Missouri (3–3, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 5 result: Lost to Vanderbilt 19–15
Missouri is still searching for its first win in the SEC. The Tigers opened strong against Vanderbilt, marching 61 yards and 90 yards on their first two possessions (both resulting in field goals) with James Franklin running the show. But after Franklin went down with a knee injury, the Mizzou offense sputtered. Backup Corbin Berkstresser, who led MU to a win over Arizona State earlier this season, completed only 9-of-30 passes in relief. Missouri outgained Vanderbilt by 100 yards (395 to 295) but the Tigers lost the special teams battle. Punter Trey Barrow dropped a snap in the end zone that resulted in a safety in the first quarter, and MU botched a potential game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter. Next week, No. 1 Alabama rolls into town, and Franklin is not expected to play. Good luck Tigers.
Next week: Alabama
11. Ole Miss (3–3, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 11
Week 5 result: Lost to Texas A&M 30–27
Ole Miss is clearly an improved team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but the Rebels are still looking for their first SEC win of the season. They led Texas A&M 27–17 midway through the fourth quarter but were unable to come up with big stops when it mattered most. The Rebels’ offense did its part, with 464 total yards and a solid 9-of-19 conversion rate on third down. But the Ole Miss defense gave up 481 yards, including 290 on the ground, and allowed A&M to convert 9-of-15 on third down. Through six games, Ole Miss ranks 42nd in the nation in total offense and 56th in total defense; last year, through six games, the Rebs ranked 117th and 106th.
Next week: Auburn
12. Arkansas (2–4, 1–2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 14
Week 5 result: Beat Auburn 24–7
The Hogs broke through with their first win against an FBS opponent this season — and it was done without breaking too much of a sweat. Arkansas pounded Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium, taking advantage of an inept Tiger offense that had 321 total yards and committed five turnovers. The Razorback pass defense that had been torched in the first five games “held” Auburn to only 242 yards through the air. Tyler Wilson was sharp at quarterback for Arkansas, completing 20-of-27 for 216 yards. The running attack was paced by Dennis Johnson, who had 17 carries for 76 yards and two scores. Knile Davis, a preseason All-American, only had three rushing attempts for minus-4 yards.
Next week: Kentucky
13. Auburn (1-3, 0-2 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 10
Week 5 result: Lost to Arkansas 24–7
It’s never a good sign when the head coach issues an apology to the fans who paid money to attend the game. But that’s what Gene Chizik did following his team’s 24–7 loss to Arkansas. The Tigers managed only 321 yards of offense against a Razorback defense that had given up 525 yards or more in three of its previous four games. Quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who has struggled in his first season as the starter, was pulled at the half in favor of Clint Moseley. A junior who started six games last season, Moseley completed 13-of-21 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions and was sacked four times.
Next week: at Ole Miss
14. Kentucky (1–5, 0–3 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 13
Week 5 Result: Lost to Mississippi State 27–14
There were some moments of hope — most notably when true freshman Patrick Towles guided the Wildcats on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the first half — but in the end it was another double-digit loss for Kentucky. The Wildcats were held to 228 yard of offense and are averaging an alarmingly low 230 yards in three SEC games. Towles completed 5-of-6 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown in his debut that was cut short by an ankle injury. Jalen Whitlow, the starter (and also a true freshman), completed 10-of-21 for 73 yards. On a positive note, UK did not commit a turnover for the first time since a Week 2 win over Kent State.
Next week: at Arkansas
College football's sixth weekend of action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC, Miami's trip to Chicago to battle undefeated Notre Dame and the West Virginia-Texas showdown in Austin.
No. 57 Pittsburgh at No. 73 Syracuse
These two future ACC members have a combined one win vs. FBS opponents — Pitt’s Week 3 win over Virginia Tech. Here’s a note that doesn’t mean much: Syracuse gave up exactly 42 points in its first two games and exactly 10 in its last two.
No. 46 Utah State at No. 52 BYU
Gary Andersen continues his fine work at Utah State. The Aggies are 4–1 overall with the only loss coming by two points at Wisconsin. His team has wins over its top two rivals in the past two years, BYU in 2010 and Utah this season. The next step? Beating BYU in Provo, something that Utah State hasn’t done since 1978.
Utah State 23-20
No. 20 Washington at No. 2 Oregon
Washington once dominated this Northwest rivalry, winning 17 of 20 from 1974-1993. The balance of power has shifted to Oregon of late. The Ducks have won eight straight — and all eight have been decided by 17 point or more. The streak will continue.
No. 3 Georgia at No. 7 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top five in the national polls for the second time ever.
No. 4 Florida State at No. 43 NC State
Florida State heads back into ACC play after improving to 5–0 with a win at South Florida last week. NC State lost its ACC opener last week, falling to Miami 44–37 on a 62-yard pass in the final minute. The Wolfpack have given up a combined 79 points in their two games against teams with a competent offense, Tennessee (35) and Miami (44). That’s a bad omen with FSU coming to town.
Florida State 38, NC State 17
No. 5 LSU at No. 9 Florida
The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
No. 36 Miami (Fla.) at No. 6 Notre Dame (in Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an average of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins).
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 12 West Virginia at No. 8 Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). They key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
No. 95 Kansas at No. 10 Kansas State
It’s been a rough start for Charlie Weis at Kansas. The Jayhawks are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, with losses to Rice and TCU at home and Northern Illinois on the road. This in-state battle won’t be close.
Kansas State 30-7
No. 22 Nebraska at No. 11 Ohio State
Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 41 Texas Tech
This is a important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
No. 54 Georgia Tech at No. 15 Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap.
No. 49 Iowa State at No. 16 TCU
I’m still stunned that TCU managed only 156 total yards of offense in last week’s 24–16 win over SMU. The previous week, Texas A&M rolled up 605 yards vs. the same Mustang defense. Now, TCU must go to battle without quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended following an arrest for DUI.
No. 104 Washington State at No. 17 Oregon State
The Beavers are already 2–0 in the Pac-12 and both wins have come on the road — vs. UCLA and Arizona. Washington State, on the other hand is 0–2 in the league and both losses have come at home — vs. Colorado and Oregon (in Seattle).
Oregon State 38-17
No. 72 UConn at No. 19 Rutgers
UConn’s last four games have been decided by seven points or less. The Huskies lost to NC State (by three) and Western Michigan (by six) and beat Maryland (by three) and Buffalo (by seven). Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.
No. 21 UCLA at No. 55 California
Jeff Tedford’s job security will be a hot topic the rest of the season. The Golden Bears have played a tough schedule, but 1–4 is still 1–4. This team needs a quality win, but beating UCLA will be a tough task, even in Berkeley.
No. 23 Michigan at No. 39 Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter.
No. 32 Arizona at No. 24 Stanford
The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
No. 105 UNLV at No. 25 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech isn’t getting enough attention for its 4–0 start. The Bulldogs have scored 44 points or more in all four games and have won consecutive games on the road vs. AQ conference foes by a combined score of 96–62.
Louisiana Tech 55-17
No. 26 Michigan State at No. 102 Indiana
Michigan State has only scored more than 23 points once this season, in a 41–7 win at Central Michigan in Week 2. Indiana has given up a total of 85 points the last two games — losses to Ball State and Northwestern. Michigan State fans should really be concerned if the Spartans struggle to score vs. IU.
Michigan State 30-13
No. 27 Mississippi State at No. 79 Kentucky
Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
Mississippi State 30-20
No. 28 Texas A&M at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
Texas A&M 38-28
No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 29 Cincinnati
Cincinnati has won six straight in this series — and none of the six has been close. In the last two years, Miami has scored a total of three points.
No. 30 Northwestern at No. 53 Penn State
Northwestern is one win away from bowl-eligibility. Penn State, of course, won’t be going to a bowl game this year — or any time soon. But credit Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions have won three straight and looked very good in last week’s 35–7 win at Illinois.
Penn State 17-13
No. 112 Wyoming at No. 31 Nevada
Nevada is home to the nation’s leading rusher. Junior Stefphon Jefferson is averaging 175.4 yards per game for Chris Ault’s club. Jefferson has rushed for at least 135 yards in all five games.
No. 70 Vanderbilt at No. 34 Missouri
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3.
No. 37 Boise State at No. 101 Southern Miss
The Ellis Johnson era at Southern Miss is not going well. The Golden Eagles are 0–4 and have been alarmingly unproductive on offense. The natives, who are used to winning at a high level, aren’t happy with their first-year head coach.
Boise State 27-7
No. 42 Virginia Tech at No. 56 North Carolina
Looking for a positive spin on Virginia Tech’s season to date? The Hokies are 1–0 in the ACC. Looking for a realistic spin? The Hokies are struggling. They are 0–2 vs. Big East teams and needed overtime to win their only league game, a 20–17 decision over Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech 27-20
No. 88 Arkansas at No. 44 Auburn
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass.
No. 76 Illinois at No. 45 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been a disappointment in 2012. Illinois has been a train wreck. The Fighting Illini opened with a solid 24–7 win over Western Michigan but have lost three straight against FBS foes. Last week, Illinois was drilled at home by Penn State 35–7. That shouldn’t happen.
No. 47 ULM at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee threw for 246 yards and rushed for 264 last week in a surprisingly easy 48–28 win at Georgia Tech. ULM, too, has a win over an AQ conference opponent. The Warhawks beat Arkansas in overtime in their opener before losing to Auburn (in overtime) and Baylor (by five). This is a very good team.
ULM 34, Middle Tennessee 24
No. 113 Buffalo at No. 50 Ohio
Ohio’s run at perfection nearly took a catastrophic (relatively speaking) turn last week. The Bobcats had to rally from seven down late in the third quarter to beat FBS newcomer UMass. Was this simply a speed bump, or is Ohio not quite as good as we thought? Go with the former.
Ohio 41, Buffalo 13
No. 66 Virginia at No. 60 Duke
Not many people have noticed, but Duke is 4–1 and needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils have a great opportunity to pick up No. 5 this Saturday vs. Virginia.
No. 61 South Florida at No. 83 Temple
South Florida won two straight to open the season but has since lost three in a row, including two at home. They now hit the road for four of the next six. If the Bulls want to be a factor in the Big East, they cannot afford to lose to Temple.
South Florida 21-20
No. 64 Wake Forest at No. 82 Maryland
It’s not a good sign for Wake Forest that the Demon Deacons are a 5.5-point dog to a Maryland team that hasn’t won a league game since the 2011 opener.
No. 65 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Ball State
Ball State’s last three games have been decided by a total of eight points. The Cardinals beat Indiana by two and South Florida by four before losing at Kent State by two. Northern Illinois has won four straight after opening with a one-point loss to Iowa. These are two solid MAC teams.
Northern Illinois 47-41
No. 67 Tulsa at No. 86 Marshall
Marshall has scored 95 points in its last two games but only has a 1–1 record to show for it. The Herd beat Rice 54–51 in overtime two weeks ago before losing to Purdue 51–41. Tulsa is 2–0 in the league after winning at UAB last week. The Golden Hurricane sacked UAB quarterback Austin Brown seven times for a loss of 68 yards.
No. 100 Central Michigan at No. 68 Toledo
The good times didn’t last long at Central Michigan. One week after beating Iowa 32–31 on a last-second field goal, the Chips were pounded 55–24 at Northern Illinois.
No. 69 Boston College at No. 122 Army
Army lost at home to Stony Brook 23-3 and allowed someone named Miguel Maysonet to rush for 220 yards. Things aren’t going well for the Black Knights.
Boston College 37-10
No. 120 UMass at No. 71 Western Michigan
UMass climbed from 124 (last) to 120 in the weekly Athlon Sports 124 thanks to its three-point loss at Ohio. That’s progress for a team that had lost its first four games by an average of 34.3 points.
Western Michigan 34-17
No. 124 Tulane at No. 74 UL Lafayette
There’s not other way to say it: Tulane is awful. The Green Wave are 0–4 and rank last in the nation in scoring offense (8.0 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (42.8 ppg). And three of their four games have been at home. This will be ugly.
UL Lafayette 48-13
No. 75 Fresno State at No. 116 Colorado State
It’s a battle of first-year coaches in the Mountain West — Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State vs. Jim McElwain at Colorado State. DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season, inherited significantly more talent than McElwain, the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11.
Fresno State 38-10
No. 80 Kent State at No. 114 Eastern Michigan
Kent State is 3–1 for the first time since 1987 when Glen Mason was roaming the sidelines. The Golden Flashes haven’t been 4–1 since ’77 when Dennis Fitzgerald was the boss at Kent State.
Kent State 30-20
No. 97 SMU at No. 89 UTEP
Garrett Gilbert, once considered the nation’s top prep quarterback, had one of the worst games possible for a quarterback last week. The former Texas Longhorn completed 15-of-40 attempts for 190 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. It’s a minor miracle that SMU only lost 24–16 to TCU.
No. 115 Hawaii at No. 90 San Diego State
San Diego State is scoring a ton of points (34 or more in four straight) but also giving up a ton (38 or more in three straight). Good thing Hawaii is next up. The Warriors have been outscored 165–34 in three games vs. FBS opponents.
San Diego State 41-14
No. 91 Navy at No. 106 Air Force
These proud military schools have fallen on hard times in 2012. Combined, they have one win vs. FBS competition, and that was Air Force’s 42–21 victory over Colorado State last weekend.
Air Force 24-21
No. 92 Texas State at No. 109 New Mexico
New Mexico has made the leap from dumpster fire (during the Mike Locksley) to potentially decent Mountain West team. The Lobos flirted with a huge upset last week before falling to Boise State 32–29 in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 28-20
No. 107 North Texas at No. 93 Houston
Houston, a colossal disappointment through the first three weeks of the season, broke through with its first win last week, a 35–14 victory over Rice. The Cougars should make it two straight with North Texas coming to town. The Mean Green have been solid on defense, but they will struggle to score enough to win this game.
No. 94 Rice at No. 123 Memphis
Rice expects quarterback Taylor McHargue to return to action after missing last week’s loss to Houston with a shoulder injury. It might not matter. Memphis is still really bad at football.
No. 96 Bowling Green at No. 110 Akron
Akron has only one win — and it came against FCS member Morgan State — but there is no doubt that the Zips have made significant improvements in the first season of the Terry Bowden era.
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 98 UAB
UAB is searching for its first win of the Garrick McGee era. It should happen this week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions lost to Missouri 62–10 in Week 1 in their only game vs. an FBS opponent.
No. 117 New Mexico State at No. 118 Idaho
These two future FBS Independents will meet twice next year, once in Las Cruces and once in Moscow.
Last week: 44–11
The SEC takes center stage in college football this weekend with two huge matchups. Florida, experiences a resurgence under second-year coach Will Muschamp hosts LSU at the Swamp, and Georgia and South Carolina meet in Columbia in a game that could decide the SEC East champ.
Other Week 6 Previews and Predictions
1. Is the Florida offense ready for an elite defense?
Florida is 4–0 and showing signs of life on offense. The Gators are averaging 407.5 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play, up from 328.7 and 5.4 from a year ago. The competition has been relatively strong — they’ve already played three SEC games — but this new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. The Tigers rank in the top 10 nationally in both passing yards (10th) and rushing yards (fourth) allowed. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
2. Can LSU continue its offensive prowess vs. Florida?
Here’s a stat that might surprise you: LSU has scored a total of 74 points in its last two games against Florida, and the Gators ended both seasons ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense. In those two games, the Tigers averaged a healthy 6.2 yards per play thanks in large part to an efficient passing attack. LSU’s two quarterbacks, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, combined to complete 26-of-38 for 439 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in those two wins. Now, it’s Zach Mettenberger’s turn. The strong-armed junior has been decent, but far from a difference-maker, through his first five games as the starting quarterback. This Saturday, he will have an opportunity to shine on one of the biggest stages in college football.
3. Can Georgia run on South Carolina?
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is getting some Heisman Trophy buzz — and deservedly so — but the most important offensive development in 2012 has been the emergence of freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. This dynamic duo is averaging a combined 192.8 yards rushing per game and rank first (Marshall, 8.2) and second (Gurley, 7.9) in the SEC in yards per carry. The each have three rushing plays of 30 yards or more; no one else in the SEC has more than two. This week, however, Gurley and Marshall will run into (literally) a South Carolina defense that ranks second in the SEC in stopping the run, allowing an average of 77.6 yards per game and 2.2 yards per attempt. The Gamecocks have given up only two rushes of 20 yards or longer and none of 30 yards or longer.
4. Can South Carolina seize the moment?
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top six in the national polls for the third time ever. The Gamecocks have won big games under Spurrier — most notably the 35–21 win over then-No. 1 Alabama in 2010 — but there is seemingly more at stake this time around. South Carolina was not undefeated at the time of the Alabama win and climbed no higher than No. 10 at any point in the ’10 season. Now, however, the Gamecocks are 5–0 and ranked No. 6 in both the AP and coaches poll. A win over Georgia would vault them into the top five for the first time since 1984 and keep them in the hunt for the school’s first-ever national title.
5. Who wins on third down: the Ole Miss offense or the Texas A&M defense?
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. And Ole Miss isn’t just padding its stats against inferior competition. In their two games vs. AQ conference teams — Alabama and Texas — the Rebels have a 41.4 percent success rate. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
6. What can we expect from Patrick Towles?
Barring a major surprise, quarterback Patrick Towles will make his collegiate debut for Kentucky when the Cats host Mississippi State on Saturday. Joker Phillips had planned on redshirting Towles — a 4-star recruit from Ft. Thomas, Ky. — but those plans changed when starter Maxwell Smith went down with an ankle injury early in last week’s loss to South Carolina. Jalen Whitlow, another true freshman, is expected to get the start, but Towles will see significant playing time. Towles, who had been working with the scout team, received extensive on-the-job training during practice this week. “He had not been working with the one or the twos, but he’s been in the meetings every day,” Phillips said. “He’s a guy that pays attention in the meetings, and we’ll have to see how much he knows. But again, it’s difficult when you haven’t gotten any reps.” If Towles plays well, Phillips, who is on the hottest of seats in the SEC, will have no choice but to start the Kentucky native for the last six games. Stay tuned.
7. Kiehl Frazier vs. the Arkansas defense: Who wins?
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass. In five games, they have given up 72 pass plays of 10 yards or more (most in the nation), 21 of 20 yards or more and nine of 30 yards or more. That brings us to Kiehl Frazier, the former prized recruit who is struggling in his first season as Auburn’s starting quarterback. The numbers aren’t pretty: Frazier ranks 14th in the SEC with a 96.03 passer rating (for a reference point, James Franklin is No. 13 with a 127.38 rating); he has completed only 52.8 percent of his attempts (last in the league); and his 6.1 yards-per-attempt average ranks last as well. This week, however, Frazier has the luxury of facing the SEC’s worst pass defense. If he struggles once again, will Auburn consider a change at the most important position on the field?
8. Can Vanderbilt score a red zone touchdown?
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3. One issue has been production (or lack thereof) in the red zone. Vanderbilt has scored a touchdown on only 26.7 percent (4 of 15) of its trips inside the 20-yard line — and all four of those TDs occurred in the Presbyterian game. In fact, the Dores are the only team in the nation that has not scored a red zone touchdown vs. an FBS opponent.
9. Can Mississippi State take care of business?
The Bulldog faithful are anxiously awaiting the visit from Tennessee in two weeks, but Mississippi State must first handle the task at hand: Beat Kentucky in Lexington. And while the Bulldogs are a heavy favorite — the line has settled at 10 points after opening at 14 — this is not a program that can expect to win a road game by simply showing up. Two weeks ago, in their only road game of the season, Mississippi State gave up 572 total yards in a 30–24 win at Troy. Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
10. Is DGB ready to break out?
It took longer than most Missouri fans had hoped, but wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham — the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2012 — finally impacted a game. In the first quarter of Mizzou’s 21–16 win at UCF, Green-Beckham turned a 25-yard toss from James Franklin into an 80-yard touchdown — the first of his career. Missouri fans are hoping that was the first of many big plays for the freshman, who had caught only six passes for a total of 48 yards in his first four games.
|David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Florida (+2.5) at LSU||
|LSU 21-17||LSU 24-20||LSU 24-17|
|Georgia (+1) at South Carolina||
South Carolina 28-21
|Georgia 34-31||Georgia 31-27||Georgia 30-24|
|Texas A&M (-12.5) at Ole Miss||
Texas A&M 35-17
|Texas A&M 40-20||Texas A&M 34-24||Texas A&M 38-28|
|Arkansas (+9.5) at Auburn||
|Auburn 27-21||Auburn 27-20||Auburn 27-20|
|Mississippi State (-10) at Kentucky||
Mississippi State 31-10
|Mississippi State 27-14||Mississippi State 38-23||Mississippi State 30-20|
|Vanderbilt (+6.5) at Missouri||Missouri 24-10||Missouri 31-21||Missouri 27-24||Missouri 23-20|